The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond, by Brenda Woods (Nancy Paulsen Books, January 2014)
Isn't that a lovely cover (despite the missig mouth)! And it fits the book perfectly--if you think that girl looks like someone you'd like to be friends with, you will probably like the book lots.
Sometimes I feel I can't sum up a book much better than the publisher's blurb does, so today I'm borrowing a bit:
"Violet is a smart, funny, brown-eyed, brown-haired girl in a family of blonds. Her mom is white, and her dad, who died before she was born, was black. She attends a mostly white school where she sometimes feels like a brown leaf on a pile of snow. She’s tired of people asking if she’s adopted. Now that Violet’s eleven, she decides it’s time to learn about her African American heritage. And despite getting off to a rocky start trying to reclaim her dad’s side of the family, she can feel her confidence growing as the puzzle pieces of her life finally start coming together."
Violet has never had any contact with her dad's mom, and now that's she's elven, she's starting to think, and wonder....and so when her grandma, a famous artist, has an exhibit in Seattle, Violet's mom takes her. And the result is that Violet is invited for a week in Los Angeles, to get to know her dad's family.
It is a lovely story of bonding with a grandparent--Violet's grandma is so happy to be able to put the sadness of the past behind her, and she showers her granddaughter with love. And in general, the family love that's at the heart of the story is truly heartwarming. It's not just the grandparent/child relationship, but many others. For instance, although it wasn't a major plot point, there was a nice sister relationship, which I appreciated--it was good to see an older sister being loving and supportive! And all in all, it is a book full of good people.
More prosaically, I also liked the fact that Violet's grandma has an interesting house, and although cooking isn't my thing, it's one of Violet's interests, and I appreciated all the foody details! (It bothers me when someone has an interest, and then we never hear much about it).
The characters deal openly with issues of race, belonging, and religion (Violet's grandma is Christian, and a tad anxious about Violet's beliefs); this part of the book felt candidly refreshing, and I imagine the book would be reassuring for a multiracial child, and thought-provoking for a child who's never questioned racial identity.
Violet was perhaps just a bit too good to be true (there's a whole day she happily spends researching Africa), and perhaps all the reconciliation and healing were a bit too easy, but for those who like books on the soothing side, this is not a problem.
Kirkus gave Violet a starred review, which you can find here.
Disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher