Gertie has a mission. And her missions always work out. But this one, her plan to get her absent mother to notice that Gertie is “one hundred percent not-from-concentrate awesome,” is not going so well. The new girl, Mary Sue, seems to outshine ( and outsmart) Gertie in almost everything.
First, Gertie. Oh, Gertie! Gertie has so much gumption and realness--Beasley has created a character so endearing and tangible, she’s sure to live on in the pantheon of of kid lit heroines--Ramona, Matilda, Harriet, Anne, Pippi, etc., etc. She’s a little weird, she’s determined, and her heart is larger than even she realizes. You, dear reader, will love her.
Gertie’s fight to become the “best fifth-grader in the universe” overlays her deeper longing to bring her mother back where she thinks she belongs--back with Gertie and her father. The profound cruelty Gertie encounters from her fellow students on her quest--bullying catalyzed by Mary Sue and intensified as more students (all too easily) join in--is heartbreaking in its accuracy. Beasley deftly explores the subtle unkindnesses that can break children down, utilizing perfectly quirky humor and a brave little protagonist to keep the story from getting to heavy to bear.
Gertie’s Leap to Greatness shows, with whip-smart prose, that often, a journey to greatness happens not in one, huge, dramatic surge, but in tiny little steps from one little triumph to another, leading you right back to the wonderful, unique person you’ve been all along. Mission accomplished.— Hannah