ELLIE EVER by Nancy Ruth Patterson
Ellie Taylor is not a hero. Her father was a hero. He stayed behind when the hurricane hit to try to help people escape, not knowing he would drown himself in the process. But surviving the storm did not make Ellie and her mother heroes, just because they lost everything. They aren’t victims or survivors either. They’re just “tweeners,” like so many others, living between jobs and between homes. When Ellie’s mother gets the chance to take an apprenticeship as a farrier, shoeing horses, and Ellie gets a scholarship to a fancy private school nearby, they have the chance to start again, moving into a little house on the edge of the horse owner’s property. At first most of the girls at the school are mean to Ellie, but one day, a fifth grader sees Ellie get off the bus at the farm and mistakenly believes that the horse owner’s huge mansion is Ellie’s house. The rumor begins circulating that Ellie is a princess, and the girls at school begin to treat Ellie very differently. But when Ellie finds out about the rumor she must choose whether to let everyone continue believing she is a princess or whether she can just be herself.
The moral message is a little heavy-handed in this story, and the characters are not very complex. Ellie and her mother could have used some flaws or moments of weakness to round them out as characters. Still, the subject matter will be of interest to many readers who enjoy realistic fiction, and few children’s books portray the struggles of being a homeless family and of being in a lower socio-economic class than one’s peers. Ellie Ever presents this underrepresented perspective with an uplifting and hopeful tone. It will most likely appeal to readers in grades 3-5. It has been nominated for the 2012-2013 Virginia Reader’s Choice Award.