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Daralynn Oakland is only alive because she got in trouble and her mother grounded her. It’s sad and ironic, but true. She went fishing alone, and when she was grounded, she missed out on the flight of her father’s plane that killed her father, brother and sister. Now it’s just her and her mother, plus her grandmother, Mamaw, next door. When people drop by after the funeral, they bring Daralynn a doll. She ends up with 237 of them, which leads the town of Digginsville, Missouri, to give her a new nickname: Dolly.

But Daralynn doesn’t like dolls very much, and she certainly doesn’t have time to play with 237 of them. Her mother has a new job doing hair at a beauty shop and at the funeral home, and when she’s not working, she’s moping around the house. Mamaw is going a little cuckoo. And even cool Aunt Josie is too busy with her business and her new boyfriend, Mr. Clem Monroe, to pay Daralynn too much attention. Without her siblings to keep her company, Daralynn really does feel all alone, but she doesn’t want to let that stop her like it’s stopped her mother. She will do anything not to alienate herself.

So Daralynn finds new things to pay attention to, and soon she’s uncovering a town scandal, inventing trendy haircuts and coming up with plans to save the funeral home business. It’s a busy summer, and in her free time from all those things, she still manages to start keeping a diary, which turns out to be quite handy not only because it helps her keep the memory of her family alive, but also because it serves as a town record even better than a newspaper. But will Digginsville notice that a little girl is doing all this great work, or will it be too hard for Daralynn to unearth a mystery, solve it, and bring it to everyone’s attention before it’s too late?

GROUNDED is at once down to earth and slightly fantastical, with clever plot twists and silly businesses, like Living Funerals and Homes For Distinguished Gentlemen. The characters are endearing, and Daralynn is easy to identify with. Unlike many other children’s books, she neither forgets about the adults in her life nor lets them bring her down when she’s the one who’s right. This is an excellent story of mystery, family ties, and standing up for yourself that anyone can enjoy.

Reviewed by Sarah Hannah Gómez on November 9, 2010

by Kate Klise

  • Publication Date: November 9, 2010
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
  • ISBN-10: 0312570392
  • ISBN-13: 9780312570392