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Monday, November 12, 2018

Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart

Lily and DunkinBy looking at the cover of this book, you'd think that Lily and Dunkin is a story of friendship, and you'd be right - up to a point.  Eighth graders Tim and Norbert meet each other in a very unusual way, and after many, many Pop Tarts and donuts and a tree named Bob, they find out that they are more alike than they are different. Sounds kind of simple and fun, right? Wrong. The story is much more complicated than that. Tim and Norbert do become friends, but not until they both travel very complicated and sometimes difficult to understand paths.

Biologically, Tim is a boy, but he's known since early childhood that he's actually a girl in a boy's body.  So, from now on, we'll use Tim's preferred name: Lily.  Lily has it rough at school and at home.  At school, a group of boys constantly harass, humiliate, and even physically abuse Lily. School becomes a nightmare for her. At home, Lily's mother and sister understand and support Lily's situation, but Lily's father has a difficult time coming to terms with it.  Although he loves Lily very much and doesn't mean to hurt her, it is devastating to Lily to not have the support of her father.

Norbert has just moved to Florida from New Jersey after a change in the family dynamic, and is having a hard time trying to fit in to his new school and neighborhood.  He and his mother are now living with his grandmother, and the adjustment is hard for him because neither his father nor his best friend Phineas are there. His mom finally lets Norbert manage his own medications for his bipolar disorder which goes well until Norbert meets some new kids at school. We'll call Norbert "Dunkin" from now on, a nickname Lily gives him because of his love of Dunkin' Donut coffee and jelly filled donuts.

Lily and Dunkin's journey to finally becoming friends is very long, emotional, and sometimes even scary.  There were several heartbreaking scenes that made me want to cry, but there were also some uplifting scenes of bravery that made me want to jump up and cheer.

The topics covered in this story are very grown-up, and might make some people uncomfortable, but they are handled in a gentle and direct way. The author's notes at the end of the book give some very interesting insights about how this story came to be written, and are definitely worth reading.  I would highly recommend Lily and Dunkin to kids from 5th to 8th grade.  

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