September 12, 2012

Small Medium at Large

by Joanne Levy
Bloomsbury Children's Books
193 pp.
Ages 9-13

Lilah is the Small Medium at Large.  She is only 12 (hence, the small) and her newly acquired psychic ability (making her a medium) is released (i.e., at large) after she is struck by lightning while clutching a metal tent pole at her mother's outdoor wedding.  Luckily, as the great cover indicates, Lilah is an endearing child with a colourful supporting cast to help her manage:  her kind but awkward Dad, just getting back into dating; her loving mother and new step-dad Stan, now away on their month long honeymoon; her best friend, Alex, who finds the value in Lilah's new gift; and her dead grandmother, Bubby Dora, who tells it like it is with wisdom and love, advising Lilah she can't "be everything to everybody."

Getting this psychic ability is a shock in itself but having dead people talking to her wherever she goes could become problematic.  Luckily, most of the spirits she "meets" are good-hearted souls who want to help: her Bubby Dora wants to help Lilah's dad find someone nice so he wouldn't be so lonely; Serena, a former bandmate of Lilah's music teacher, wants him to start up their old band; Miss Marion, the lunch lady, who is able to steer Lilah away from lousy meatloaf and such in the school cafeteria; and Mr. Finkel, the father of the boy on whom Lilah is crushing, just wants to connect with his son.

But, sharing her gift with others is especially awkward, even though Alex is sure that Lilah could make loads of money selling her services.  Luckily, Lilah is more apt to use her gift to help others, including those whose nasty behaviour could have earned them her disdain and disregard.

Small Medium at Large has all the hallmarks of a great middle-grade read.  The plot focus is simple i.e., Lilah's new-found psychic ability.  The characters are mostly of the kind variety with only a couple of nasty ones added for flavour and even they can be redeemed.  And the stories resolve themselves amicably when characters connect.  Even the book trailer from Joanne Levy demonstrates the light-heartedness of the book.  Joanne Levy shares, without preaching, that supporting one's family and friends can bring good karma even if you have to live through the awkwardness of puberty and first crushes.

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