Reviews for Marble Queen

Booklist Reviews 2012 October #2
It's 1959 and there are some things girls in a small town aren't supposed to do. Shooting marbles is one of them. That doesn't stop Freedom Jane McKenzie, whose dream is to enter the marble competition at the Autumn Jubilee. Mrs. McKenzie thinks differently, and Freedom's bag of marbles becomes a point of contention. Beginning in August and ending in December, this first-person narrative neatly hits all the important moments in Freedom's life: the confusion when an old pal doesn't want to hang out with her anymore because she is a girl; the realization that a nasty neighbor has a soft side; and the push-pull Freedom feels for her father when the one beer he is drinking turns into five or six. Freedom's personable tone takes readers right to her side, and though this is a look back, it has the timeless feel of, say, a Ramona book. (All the details aren't correct, however--most people didn't have color TV in 1959.) Warm and old-fashioned in the very best sense of the word. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Fall
In 1959 Idaho, all Freedom Jane McKenzie wants to do is beat the boys at marbles. But her pregnant mother thinks she should be more ladylike, and her father isn't very supportive, especially when he drinks. And her best friend Daniel is suddenly treating her differently. This likable story about mild rebellion, family, and growing up has a heroine readers will cheer.

Kirkus Reviews 2012 December #1
Freedom Jane McKenzie, 10, has written her "Last Will and Testimony," and in it, she passes her most treasured worldly possession, her bag of marbles, on to her best friend, Daniel. That would be fine, except Daniel has come to the sad realization that sixth-grade boys should probably primarily be associating with boys, not playing marbles with girls, even talented ones like Freedom. In fact, nearly all of the marble-playing boys have decided they don't want to play with her. Meanwhile, she's set her sights on winning the marbles competition at the Autumn Jubilee. Her mother strongly disapproves. But her mother has a few more issues to deal with besides marbles: Freedom's father's drinking has begun to control his life and theirs, and she's due to have a baby any day now. Blake's debut novel, lovingly set in 1959 Idaho, gently reminds readers that some things never change: Growing up was a challenge in the 1950s, and it remains so. Incorporating the lingo of marble-playing, which will be unfamiliar to most readers, adds a mildly exotic flavor to Freedom's entertaining tale. Freedom's voice, nicely captured in her first-person narration, is often droll and never boring. This one is for keepsies, and it would be perfect paired with a how-to book on marble games. (Historical fiction. 9-12) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 November #2

In 1959 Idaho Falls, Freedom Jane McKenzie's dream is to win the marble competition at the Autumn Jubilee, but several obstacles stand in this spirited 10-year-old's way. First is her pregnant mother, who insists that shooting marbles is for boys and argues constantly with Freedom's heavy-drinking father and their crabby neighbor, Mrs. Zierk. Then there are the boys themselves--including Freedom's former best friend, Daniel--who exclude her from their shootouts. As summer ends and school begins, Freedom continues to resist the conventions that say what girls should and shouldn't do, while forming an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Zierk and beginning to see that people are more complicated than they appear, including her own parents. Blake's debut flourishes in its smalltown details and in Freedom's amusing observations--this nostalgic, anecdotal story is more about the journey than the destination. However, the marble contest has a surprising conclusion that dovetails well with Freedom's growth over the course of the novel, and while not everything is neatly resolved, Blake's plot lines conclude in an organic and pleasing way. Ages 10-up. (Jan.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2013 January

Gr 5-7--Hopefully this engaging first novel won't be the only book about Freedom Jane McKenzie, because she is one likable gal. The writing is fluid, rich with description yet accessible, and the author deftly weaves together multiple layers of conflict. The characters are fully developed and endearing, particularly 10-year-old Freedom. She is spunky and determined to keep beating the neighborhood boys at marbles even though her mother insists she should act more like a girl. She's also a hoot, with hilariously bad impulses. Her mom has many rules she expects her daughter to follow, which leads, of course, to a lot of head-butting. Freedom's father is a rascal with a big heart. He tries to do well by his family but is not always successful. The book brims with poignancy and humor as the McKenzies make mistakes, some serious, others that are laugh-out-loud funny. This family is as real as it gets. Readers will hurt for their downfalls and cheer their love, loyalty, and triumphs. The story is set in Idaho Falls in 1959, but Blake maintains such a good balance between period details and the overarching issues of family dynamics and growing up that Freedom's travails will ring true with today's tweens. Terrific.--Alyson Low, Fayetteville Public Library, AR

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