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Filled with references to 80s pop music, Acampora's fast-paced and entertaining novel will satisfy lovers of family stories that have a touch of mystery.
--School Library Journal starred review

"The dry wit of Acampora's characters... and the love of '80s music permeating every scene give this story its rhythm and soul." -- Publishers Weekly


"The idiosyncratic characters bring the story to life and the irrepressible humor… is laugh-aloud funny. A satisfying novel of loss, change, and renewal." – Booklist


Featured Reviews


A tribute to family, friends, and Cyndi Lauper, this is a story of a young girl's search for answers and her journey towards a deeper appreciation of the people who love her. Fourteen-year-old white American Ellie Magari has never known her mother, who left the family soon after Ellie's birth. Although Ellie's father appears to be satisfied with their long-time understanding that they do not discuss Wilma "Korky" Korkenderfer, Ellie wants to know more. When she learns that her mother has died, her questions become more urgent; luckily for Ellie, there are people around her who may have some answers. Her closest friends, Daniel, who walks with a limp due to a mild form of cerebral palsy, and Anya, who is a biracial adoptee, are empathetic to Ellie's need to know more about her biological mother and eagerly help her solve the puzzle of Korky's life. She is close to her school principal, Sister Stephanie, who knew Korky when they were both teenagers. There's also Mr. Leary, Sister Stephanie's brother, who becomes the director of the St. Francis Marching Band of which Ellie and Daniel are enthusiastic members. Mr. Leary, in scenes reminiscent of School of Rock, turns out to be a treasure trove of information about Cyndi Lauper and U2, among other 80s rock groups, but more importantly, he is someone who leads Ellie to answers and acceptance.


VERDICT Filled with references to 80s pop music, Acampora's fast-paced and entertaining novel will satisfy lovers of family stories that have a touch of mystery.

--Reviewed by Shelley Sommer, Inly School, Scituate, MA, Apr 01, 2018


Fourteen-year-old Ellie’s mother left when she was a baby. After Ellie finds out she has died, she is eager to learn about the parent she will now never meet. Unfortunately, her father, who is still angry that Ellie’s mother abandoned the family, is not interested in sharing information or memories, so Ellie turns to the colorful cast of characters around her for help. Before her death, Ellie’s mom had sent her a box of mementos that offer some clues. Now, Ellie learns that her mother was in an ’80s tribute band called Cyndi Lauper’s Not Dead and that they will be playing in town. Ellie’s quest to determine who her mother really was, helped along by those who knew her, reads like a light mystery and drives the story forward. Yet it’s the dry wit of Acampora’s characters—including Ellie’s principal, the wise and wisecracking Sister Stephanie—and the love of ’80s music permeating every scene that give this story its rhythm and soul. Ages 8–12. Agent: Susan Hawk, Upstart Crow. (May)


Fourteen years ago, Ellie’s mother left her husband and her baby, never to return. Now in high school, Ellie knows little about her mother, but upon hearing of her death, she’s curious. Ellie’s relationship with her steadfast, obstinate father is her bedrock, but Dad never willingly talks about the woman who abandoned them. And Ellie’s angry with him anyway for not giving a box of Mom-related memorabilia, compact discs, and cassettes to her earlier. Ellie’s friends help her find out more about her past and contact members of her mother’s Cyndi Lauper tribute band. Music is woven into the story, from Ellie’s marching band’s traditional numbers in the opening chapter to the ’80s songs they play “around the cemetery like a New Orleans funeral parade” when her mother’s ashes are buried. Two things make the novel more enjoyable than its basic framework might suggest: the many idiosyncratic characters who bring the story to life and the irrepressible humor, which is unexpected, often droll, and sometimes laugh-aloud funny. A satisfying novel of loss, change, and renewal.— Carolyn Phelan


Fourteen-year-old Ellie Magari learns about her estranged mother’s death just moments before playing in the marching band at St. Francis of Assisi’s Friday night football game. By the end of the evening, her confusing feelings lead her to toss her glockenspiel into the air, just missing her music teacher and kicking off a series of strained discussions with her single-parent father about why this loss is such a big deal to her anyway. Losing any possibility of ever meeting, knowing, or being loved by her biological mother is hard for Ellie to explain to herself, let alone others, and her father’s protectiveness and frequent references to what he believes are his ex-wife’s character flaws don’t help. Soon Ellie learns that her mother, Wilma “Korky” Korkenderfer died of leukemia after a career as lead singer of the CYNDI LAUPER’S NOT DEAD! tribute band, which Ellie, by her own efforts, gets to eventually experience. While Ellie appears to be white, her friends have varied backgrounds and experiences (one has a congenital limp; another is a Chinese adoptee who identifies as Polish) and help her accept her own history. Acampora hits a few clunky notes, with good-natured wit that occasionally tries too hard. Straightforward storytelling with a light touch of humor, accessible to a broad spectrum of readers. (Fiction. 8-12)


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