My Life in Dioramas by Tara Altebrando is a wonderful heart-warming MG story about change, friendship, and family told with humor and realism.
Kate has lived her entire life in Big Red, the old farmhouse her parents own. Now half way through her 7th grade year they tell her they are moving. Worse, they are moving in with her grandparents because they are in financial trouble. Kate has to leave her school, dance class, friends, and the only life she has ever known. But Kate isn't going down without a fight. She hatches a number of schemes to turn off potential buyers, everything from causing a terrible stench to having her teenage neighbor play loud music. As time goes on, Kate realizes that more might be at stake than just her house though, and as she begins to feel more desperate and lost she makes a series of dioramas illustrating her life in the home she loves.
Kate's voice is absolutely perfect for the story being told here. She is a wonderful combination of vulnerable, sarcastic, bossy, and lost. She is a typical middle schooler. The plans she comes up with to save her home border on brilliant and ridiculous. Even thought they clearly have little hope of working, she attacks them with all the enthusiasm of her dwindling childhood. The house is not the only change on Kate's horizon though. Her relationship with her best friend, Stella, is changing. Stella seems more and more interested in boys and popularity than the interests they used to share. Then there are the boys themselves. Kate doesn't want to be noticing them, but darn it if they are making themselves more noticeable.
Kate's parents are incredibly important to the story too. Kate learns a great deal about her parents through the course of the story. She is in that stage when a child is really discovering their parents have a much wider life extending beyond the life of the child. Kate's parents have made some foolish financial decision, and she is furious with them. At the same time, she can see that they are mourning these as well. And Kate's mom is suffering from depression. I really like the way this is dealt with. Kate only knows the bare minimum of what is going on, but it she overhears things and has uncomfortable conversations with her mother. I felt this was realistically dealt with and is a situation many readers will be able to identify with.
My Life in Dioramas is a great pick for MG readers who enjoy realistic fiction. It is a short read and wonderfully illustrated too.
I read ARC provided by the publisher, Running Press Kids, via the mail. My Life in Dioramas is on sale April 28th.