by Elizabeth Flock

March 2005
ISBN: 0-7783-2082-0
Reviewer Graphic Button Mira Books

Carrie Parker deals with some of the typical issues of any eight year old with bullies and school problems. She likes to play games of make-believe, but that is not enough to turn off the nightmare that is often her home life. She not only has to deal with poverty and the loss of her beloved daddy, but also the daily conflicts with her abusive and alcoholic stepfather. Her mother withdraws to her room and does not have the intelligence or coping skills to deal with her poor choices.

Carrie realizes it will be up to her to change life for herself and her sister, Emma. After plans to run away fall apart and Carrie sees there will be no help from her grandmother, she takes actions that lead to a conclusion that is totally unexpected.

The author tells the story from Carrie's point of view and is quite successful in capturing the voice of someone so young. The glimpses of flashbacks as Carrie remember good times with her daddy are the perfect device to convey the background story. The foreshadowing used makes the story all the more compelling. Although Carrie's story is one that is heartbreakingly sad, it is also one of courage and strong will. The richly drawn details of all the characters bring them to life and elicit strong emotions. Unfortunately, there are way too many real life counterparts of Carrie's stepfather who are in the news on a regular basis. For all the tragedy of Emma & Me , the author shows the loving kindness of neighbors and others.

Emma & Me is a simply told story, but is powerful and will haunt you long after you have turned the last page.

Reviewed in February 2005 by Roberta.

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