TOO MUCH FUN. That’s my assessment in a nutshell of Odessa Again by Dana Reinhardt (2013, 196 pages). I loved it, and more importantly my reluctant reader daughter woke me up at 7:15 this morning to get the book from my room. “If I were in fourth grade, I would want to be friends with Odessa,” I said the other day to my daughter. “If I were in fourth grade, (actually, she is) I would want to BE Odessa,” she replied. Can you tell we like the main character?
Fourth grader Odessa Green-Light lives with her mom and her toad of a little brother, Oliver. Her dad is getting remarried, which makes no sense according to Odessa. If the prefix “re” means “to do all over again,” shouldn’t he be remarrying Mom? Meanwhile, Odessa moves into the attic room of their new house. One day she gets mad and stomps across the attic floor. Then she feels as if she is falling and lands . . . on the attic floor. Turns out that Odessa has gone back in time a whole day! With this new power she can fix all sorts of things–embarrassing moments, big mistakes, and even help Oliver be less of a toad. Her biggest goal: reunite Mom and Dad.
This is what I call a short-term time travel novel, one of my favorite kinds of time travel stories. (For recommendations on more books of this type, see my earlier posts on 11 Birthdays, Counterclockwise, and Rewind.) On Odessa’s first trip back in time she travels 24 hours. The next trip is 23 hours, the following is 22 hours, and so on. The chapters are titled accordingly. At first, Odessa goes back in time to redo relatively trivial mistakes. Then she realizes her chances are running out, and does some serious thinking about what important changes she can effect. Odessa is a well-meaning but far from perfect, very believable character who grows a lot emotionally throughout the book. I loved the depiction of her initial disdain for her second-grade brother, and how that evolved.
This book is really funny, but it also full of heartfelt emotion regarding Odessa’s feelings about her parents’ divorce, and her father’s upcoming marriage to his new wife. It also made some great points about friendship, particularly how friendships in fourth grade can be somewhat complicated. The adults in Odessa’s life, including her mom, dad, Uncle Milo, dad’s fiancee, and old lady next door were believable and likeable. The chapters are short, the writing snappy, and there are one or two cute black and white drawings per chapter.What’s not to like? I can’t think of anything negative to say about this this one.
For more Marvelous Middle Grade Monday book reviews by other bloggers see Shannon Messenger’s blog!