This makes the second Elvis impersonator book I've reviewed, go figure. The first was All Shook Up by Shelley Pearsall, which I liked. Several kids have read it from the library and they like it too.
I was a bit surprised to see a second one, let alone on THE LIST for Newbery attention. Love Me Tender by Audrey Couloumbis started a little slow for me. It seemed like just another dysfunctional family with an Elvis impersonator thrown in for a twist. However, because my partner in blogging got me to commit to this Looking for Newbery thing, I had to finish it. As I continued to read, I began to realize just how good it is. My daughter appeared in a production of Steel Magnolias at her high school this fall, and somehow I couldn't stop thinking about it. There were a lot of similarities.
The book starts with 13 year old Elvira's daddy leaving their North Carolina home for a big Elvis impersonator competition in Las Vegas, where else!? We soon meet her very pregnant mother called Mel by Elvira, not mom, her annoying little sister Kerrie and the dysfunction begins. Mel doesn't want to get out of the lounger she just wants Elvira to take care of everything and she is sick of it. The story of her frustration is told through some flash backs and memories.
When Mel receives a cryptic phone call from her sister, Clare, pronounced CLA-REE, regarding their mother's help, Elvira, Mel and Kerrie load up dad's classic auto and head out on the road. This is where the story really took off for me. The character's come to life as they get to know each other allowing us to get to know them as well. The conversations in this book are priceless, lots of southern woman back and forth, with biting humor, hard honesty, and love that only a family can share with one another bring all of the women closer and to an understanding.
I think my favorite character is "the grandmother" as Elvira calls her. Elvira and Kerrie don't really know this grandmother because of some hard feelings between her and Mel, so when they finally meet her she is a bit gruff and hard to read. In the end, the girls and Mel melt her no nonsense exterior and find a warm, caring grandmother that Elvira comes to love.
I think girls especially are going to love this book. I'm still debating whether it's appropriate for our elementary library, but it was definitely worth the read.
ACPL Mock Newbery
Provo City Library Children's Book Review