Fans of the resilient and spirited young heroine in Katherine Hannigan’s 2004 debut Ida B will welcome the equally irrepressible and unforgettable Delaware “Delly” Pattison in Hannigan’s new novel, True (. . . sort of). With a tremendous sense of adventure and a fiery temper to boot, the fifth grader is tired of getting in trouble and not knowing why. She’s given one more chance to control herself or else she’ll be shipped off to reform school. Her younger brother, RB, suggests counting to cool her fire, but Delly tires of the nonstop numbers and gives up on finding the good inside herself.
All that changes when a new student arrives. Ferris Boyd may not talk or want to be touched, but she plays basketball better than anyone in her class and accepts Delly as she is. Though Delly is usually better at chasing people away than making friends, she begins to follow Ferris home from school every afternoon. She learns to pause and listen to what is said in a quiet way, instead of reacting without thinking. Knowing that she shouldn’t be unsupervised at Ferris’ house, Delly pretends to be working on an after-school project. Soon the whole world seems like a doughnut: “Sweet, beautiful, and delicious. And she was the floppy cream filling.” Then she notices the fear in Ferris when her father arrives early one day—and she realizes that sometimes the truth is just too awful to keep quiet.
This novel’s real truth is revealed in Hannigan’s poignant storytelling. Once again the author proves her ability to get inside her characters and bring out their strengths. Readers witness not only Delly’s tender transformation but her influence on other characters, such as Danny Novello, who only knows how to show his feelings for Delly by picking a fight. And her “liver and onions” relationship with her older sister, Galveston (“it was always bad, but it was part of being a Pattison”), even begins to sweeten. Especially endearing, though, is Delly’s unique lingo, which warrants her own dictionary, from Ferris’ secret tree house or “hideawayis” to her “bawlgrammit” nocuss words. Her story is perfexcellent!