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Courage for Beginners
Cover of Courage for Beginners
Courage for Beginners
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Twelve-year-old Mysti Murphy wishes she were a character in a book. If her life were fictional, she'd magically know how to deal with the fact that her best friend, Anibal Gomez, has abandoned her in favor of being a "hipster." She'd be able to take care of everyone when her dad has to spend time in the hospital. And she'd certainly be able to change her family's secret.

Seventh grade is not turning out the way Mysti had planned. With the help of a hot-air balloon, her new friend Rama Khan, and a bright orange coat, can she find the courage to change?

Twelve-year-old Mysti Murphy wishes she were a character in a book. If her life were fictional, she'd magically know how to deal with the fact that her best friend, Anibal Gomez, has abandoned her in favor of being a "hipster." She'd be able to take care of everyone when her dad has to spend time in the hospital. And she'd certainly be able to change her family's secret.

Seventh grade is not turning out the way Mysti had planned. With the help of a hot-air balloon, her new friend Rama Khan, and a bright orange coat, can she find the courage to change?

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  • Publisher's Weekly

    May 26, 2014
    Mysti Murphy has to brave at least three major trials at the onset of seventh grade. The first is having an agoraphobic mother, who never leaves the house even to chauffeur her children to classmates’ houses or extracurricular activities. The second is losing her only friend, Anibal, who has “decided to be a hipster this year” to pursue a girl and wants to avoid publicly associating with Mysti. The third obstacle is the most difficult of all, when her father falls from a tree and is hospitalized. Now Mysti must find a way to be strong and responsible while her mother becomes sadder and more withdrawn. Harrington’s (Sure Signs of Crazy) portrait of a resourceful girl weathering transitions and finding creative solutions offers an even balance of humor and painful topics relevant to middle-school readers. The way Mysti views her life, as though she’s a character in a novel (“Here we see a girl washing green beans, extracting melons, and contemplating the true meaning of friendship”), provides a fresh perspective on her thought process, environment, and yearnings. Ages 8–12. Agent: Julia Kenny, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner.

  • AudioFile Magazine Casey Holloway's precise articulation captures precocious 12-year-old Mysti Murphy, who dreams of visiting Paris, though she has never left town due to her mother's agoraphobia. When her father is hospitalized, Holloway allows Mysti's vocal veneer of confidence to slip, and listeners realize how hard Mysti must work to convince herself that all is well within her family. Holloway's vocal characterizations give listeners a glimpse into the way each character struggles with his or her own fears. While Mysti's mother's voice is slow and resigned, her best friend speaks in clipped, defensive tones. Though Holloway's initial tone of bravado is assertive, even potentially abrasive, it contrasts well with her calmer, more self-aware tone as Mysti matures. E.M.C. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine
  • Kirkus

    June 15, 2014
    Harrington (Sure Signs of Crazy, 2013) offers another perceptive story of a resilient preteen coping with a parent's mental illness.Mysti Murphy has a knack for storytelling. It gives her what her family can't: adventures beyond her front door. Her mother has severe agoraphobia, which means her father shoulders the responsibilities of work, shopping and transportation, and things like home repairs or dental work are postponed. Fortunately, Mysti's only friend, Anibal, doesn't mind her situation. However, as her father often says, change comes for everyone. Hoping to date a popular cheerleader, Anibal becomes a hipster-and a bully in the process. Then, Mr. Murphy falls out of a tree, injuring his brain and plunging Mysti and her family into quiet, suspenseful panic. As emergency groceries run low, Mysti scrambles to hide their situation from her teachers and her quirky new friend, Rama Khan. Inspired by the Battle of the Alamo, she becomes determined to stand up not only to Anibal, but to the unpredictable world outside. Mysti's curatorial narration-as if she were describing paintings or book characters-works on multiple levels, showing off her snark and emphasizing her mother's sheltered influence. Her mother is flawed but sympathetic; she knows her fears are disproportionate, but their debilitating effect is real.With gallows humor and believable small victories, this unusual novel is a window into making friends and facing fears. (Fiction. 9-13)

    COPYRIGHT(2014) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    May 1, 2014

    Gr 5-8-As Mysti begins seventh grade, her father is in the hospital, leaving her at home with her younger sister, her severely agoraphobic mother, and no strategy for replenishing the food supplies. To make matters worse, her only friend, Anibal Gomez, asks her to help with his social experiment to be cool, meaning that if she talks to him at school, he'll ruthlessly make fun of her. Mysti struggles with so much change, but as she befriends sassy and supportive Rama, she slowly finds her own voice and agency. Readers will empathize with Mysti, feeling her loneliness as keenly as her triumphs. Harrington's characters are strong and real with one disappointing exception: Rama's mother, identified solely by her extreme fear that Western culture will compromise her daughter's Islamic faith, is a one-dimensional stereotype amid a cast of tenderly nuanced characters. This otherwise strong realistic novel shows that change is coming for everyone, but they can find the courage within themselves to make the best of it. A solid addition for most middle-grade collections.-Amy Koester, St. Charles City-County Library District, Wentzville, MO

    Copyright 2014 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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Courage for Beginners
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