DEEP DOWN POPULAR by Phoebe Stone
It is the story of friendship between Jessie Lou Ferguson, Conrad Parker Smith, who she has adored since primary school, and Quentin Duster, a fourth grader.
I loved Jessie Lou. She is in grade 6, a tomboy who is anxious about fitting in and having friends, feels like an odd ball, and is not sure she likes herself.
Of course, just like Jessie Lou, I loved Conrad! He is smart, kind, and wise beyond his years. In Jessie's words, “In his heart he knows first isn’t touching a door knob, or getting to sit in the front row seat by the window, or making it up to the road before everybody else. First is something deep down inside you that you know and feel and nobody can take away from you” p 121.
Quentin Duster can be a bit of a pest, but the thing about him is that he grows on you (in spite of having some seriously overdue library books!)
Jessie and her older sister, Melinda, seem to be very different, but then Melinda fails to win a beauty pageant. In the end it doesn't really matter that they “were only there to make the winner feel more important.” p 181. After this Jessie Lou realizes that she and Melinda have much more in common than she thought and they begin to connect with each other.
By the end of the book I cared deeply about all the characters and much as I wonder what will happen to them as they grow up, I know in my heart that Quentin, Conrad, and Jessie Lou will remain deep down friends forever.
THE ROMEO AND JULIET CODE by Phoebe Stone
Set at the beginning of the Second World War, Felicity, age 11 travels with her parents, Winnie and Danny, from England to a village on the coast of Maine. After a tense and awkward interlude, Felicity is left with family she didn’t know existed, while her parents return to England.
At first the house and its inhabitants seem shrouded in secrets and intrigue. Felicity warily negotiates her interactions with this new family; The Gram, Uncle Gideon, Aunt Miami, and the mysterious Captain Derek.
Over time Flissy (as she is nicknamed) comes to settle into her new life in America. She is a gift to them and helps them recover from their past hurts and insecurities.
Letters arrive from Danny addressed to Uncle Gideon. After much sleuthing, she and Derek crack the secret code and unravel the mystery surrounding them.
As the family secrets are revealed, Felicity finds that she finally has a home and place where she belongs.
I expected this book to be more like Deep Down Popular and there are some common themes – friendship, family, and first love are integral. Once I got over that it was different, I found that I enjoyed learning about history as I read this book. In it’s own way, it is another great read!