Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge

Next week, author Kristin Gray will share her thoughts on Mining for Heart. In the meantime, enjoy her fantastic debut middle grade novel.

Title: Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge
IMG_1454 2Written by: Kristin L. Gray
Suitable for ages: 8-12
Simon & Schuster, 2017, fiction
Themes/topics: pets, responsibility, family

The day I was born I was four times smaller than the trophy largemouth bass hanging in my daddy’s shop. My entire hand fit on Dr. Lafferty’s thumbnail. Nobody, Mama included, had planned on me arriving three months early.

But I did. At two pounds, two ounces, I was the size of a head of cauliflower (I hate cauliflower) and didn’t make a peep. Boy, have times changed.

Brief synopsis (from
Vilonia is determined to prove she’s responsible enough to care for a dog in this hilarious and utterly lovable debut novel.

Being responsible is NOT easy.

Fourth grader Vilonia hasn’t lost her rain coat in the three weeks she’s had it and she’s brushed her teeth every night and she’s volunteered to be the Friday Library Helper. But all that hard work is worth it if it means she can get a dog. Besides, this dog isn’t just because Vilonia has wanted one for pretty much ever. It’s also to help Mama, who’s been lost in one, big sadness fog for forty-three days—ever since Nana died. But Vilonia read that pets can help with sadness. Now all she has to do is keep the library goldfish alive over spring break, stop bringing stray animals home, and help Mama not get fired from her job. And she’s got to do all of it before the Catfish Festival. Easy as pie, right?

Activities and Resources:
This book is rich with material to study characterization and voice.

Compare and contrast to other books and characters.

Why I like this book:
Because of Winn-Dixie has a special place in my heart. Using that beloved novel as a springboard and reference point for the main character might be risky in a less skilled author’s hands, but Gray’s story hits the mark to stand alongside this classic. Like Because of Winn-Dixie and Clementine, the author’s outstanding narrative voice and endearing characters make Vilonia Beebe pure joy to read. This story is rich – the language, the plot, and priceless tidbits that flesh out the story with fun. (One of my favorites is the chicken coop filled with hens named after first ladies. I’ll withhold any more so as not to spoil your reading experience.) Vilonia Beebe has found a special place in my heart, right alongside India Opal Buloni.

6 thoughts on “Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge

  1. What a heartwarming story!. I like determined girls like Vilonia who will prove that she is responsible. Is the mother depressed and not always present emotionally for Vilonia? 43 years is a long time to be sad. Great cover.

    Liked by 1 person

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