Pa Lia skipped over every crack in the sidewalk, watched ants march between blades of grass, and tried to call a cat down from a tree…anything to delay the inevitable first day at her new school. When her big brother tires of her dawdling, Pa Lia finds herself all alone on the steps of the big red brick building, “…like a teeny-tiny minnow in a huge giant ocean.”
Things start to look up when she meets Calliope, a nice second grader who is in her class. But, when she’s introduced to Calliope’s best friend Howardina Geraldina Paulina Maxina Gardenia Smith (Howie for short), the response in not nearly as warm. Things get worse when Pa Lia passes notes to the girls and gets them all in trouble with the teacher. With all the bravery she can muster, “She felt like a huge wave were pushing her to speak louder. She felt like the wind about to howl,” Pa Lia tells the truth and wins the girls over with her honesty.
Edwards’ portrayal of Pa Lia’s first day, with all its ups and downs, feels authentic and relatable. The three girls are distinctive, yet equally appealing.