For fifth-grader Bailey Blecker, a classwide case of head lice is the worst thing that could happen. She's been growing her hair to donate, and she's determined (or stubborn, as her mom calls it) not to cut it until it's long and lice free enough to be useful. But lice are only the beginning of Bailey's troubles, and in this classroom comedy, the solution is full of twists and tangles. (goodreads summary)
Bailey is an ordinary 5th grade girl but seems to have many troubles happen to her at once. She lives with her single mom who has never been married (but really wanted to have a baby anyway) and does not know her dad. She and her best friend Olivia were suppose to attend a new school together on the mainland for better educational opportunities. Just before school starts, Olivia's parents decide to keep her attending the Island school where they live. Olivia did not protest with this last minute decision either. However, Bailey stayed with her choice to try something new and go to Casco Elementary on her own. She's noticed things have not been the same between the two friends. Attending a new school alone without a best friend was not easy. Especially when she caught an itchy case of head lice. She is excited about her upcoming birthday party. Unfortunately, since her new school is in the middle of an outbreak of head lice only a few classmates show up. To make the party worse, she looses her beloved pet parakeet that her Aunt gave her. During the course of the story, Bailey must also decide about cutting her long hair to help rid the lice. She is determined not to because she is growing it out to donate because her favorite Aunt is also fighting cancer.
This story seems to have many plots going on at once but it was a simple and nice coming-of-age story. Bailey realizes that her friendship with Olivia is different and she struggles with her mixed feelings. It is a very emotional time for her since she is unsure about being the new kid at school, the loss of a very special pet and having to cut her hair which she knows she's growing for a good cause. Bailey handles each situation in a mature way and showed character development throughout the story. This book reads quickly and even though it was going in many different directions, the story was easy to follow without getting lost along the way. It had some good humor in spots and I also felt a connection to the realistic situations Bailey was going through because she was a likable character. I did learn a lot about head lice too. The story mainly focuses on change and old and new friendships which many kids do go through when they start reaching the upper grade levels. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 8-11.
Title: What's Bugging Bailey Blecker
Author: Gail Donovan
Genre: Fiction - middle grade
Pub. Date: February 2011, Dutton Juvenile
Hardcover, 194 pgs.