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Because of Anya


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Gr 3-6-Quiet, introspective Anya returns to fourth grade from winter break wearing a wig. Classmates conjecture and gossip and pass notes, and the very popular Stef dares her shy apostle Keely to find out what's going on. Having known Anya since kindergarten, Keely is torn between concern for a former friend and fear of ostracism. Anya, recently diagnosed with alopecia areata, wants only to be invisible at school as well as at home, where her parents seem equally devastated and helpless. When the wig comes off during gym class, the youngster flees the school to barricade herself from the world in her room. Keely, always a follower, must decide between her anguished desire to help a friend she wishes she'd kept, while Anya must figure out how she's going to live with her condition. Both come to terms with fear of change, Keely by cutting off her own tresses so Anya can have a wig made of real hair, and Anya by accepting this gift and opening herself up to her classmates, who turn out to be eager to respond with concern and kindness. Simply written, alternating between the two protagonists as they work toward one another, this is a poignant story of discovery on many levels. Haddix is sensitive to Anya's despair and her classmates' relief when they learn that she doesn't have cancer, and delicately navigates the emotional terrain, resolving the story with an upbeat determination. This is a much-needed introduction in kid-friendly prose to a fairly common malady that's particularly excruciating for preadolescents, for whom appearance often is all.-Mary R. Hofmann, Rivera Middle School, Merced, CA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Haddix (Among the Hidden) returns with a short but often informative tale of ordinary girls facing exceptional circumstances. "Could someone be beautiful with ugly hair? Or-no hair?" wonders 10-year old Anya as she confronts her image in her bedroom mirror. When the first small bald patch shows up on Anya's head, it seems like a small thing, but as the bald patches grow and her hair falls out in clumps, she's diagnosed with an auto-immune disease. At first she thinks. "Whatever alopecia areata was couldn't be too bad, because it was such a pretty name.... It should be one of the ladies in King Arthur's court." All too soon, however, she's wearing a wig, and her classmates Keely, Stef, Tonya and Nicole are wondering if she has cancer. Then the unthinkable occurs: her wig falls off during gym, seemingly pulled off by Stef, the most popular (and bossiest) girl in school. The humiliation is almost too much to bear but Keely, usually only too happy to follow Stef's lead, reaches out to her classmate; Anya gains the courage to accept her condition and the joys of unexpected friendship. Haddix successfully chooses two viewpoints, Anya's (victim) and Keely's (observer), to examine the effects of alopecia, but she oversimplifies Anya's and Keely's relationships to the other girls. The examination of the disease and its accompanying medical information, while useful, takes too much precedence over the development of the friendship. Ages 8-12. (Nov.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

"School Library Journal"

A poignant story of discovery.

"Kirkus Reviews"

The author's sympathetic but not simplistic insight will engage readers.

"Denver Post & Rocky Mountain News"

Haddix's story is straightforward and compassionate without being preachy or maudlin.

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