Itch by Michelle D. Kwasney 


by Michelle D. Kwasney
Pages: 256
My rating: B+
After the death of her beloved Gramps, Delores Colchester, better known as “Itch,” moves with her grandmother from Florida to Ohio. Starting over is hard, and Itch feels like an outsider in her new school, until she becomes friends with popular baton-twirling Gwendolyn. On the outside, Gwendolyn seems talented, smart, and beautiful. But she has a dark secret, which Itch begins to suspect and soon discovers is true. “Speaking up takes courage,” Gramps had always told Itch, and she’s about to discover just how much. Michelle D. Kwasney weaves a compelling story about child abuse, family, and friendship against the backdrop of the late 1960s. Itch is a 2009 Bank Street – Best Children’s Book of the Year.
Delores “Itch” Colchester move from sunny Florida to an Ohio trailer park after the death of her grandfather. She’s saddened by the move and by his death, which adds to the already difficult task of making friends in 6th grade. No one wants to be friends with a mopey 11 year old. Itch soon befriends the baton-twirling champion, Gwedolyn and agrees to hang out with the rest of the “Breck girls.” Itch soon realizes that the perfect lives that some people appear to have are much more complicated than she thinks.
I picked this up off the Sequoyah book shelf at my library. Oklahoma gives the award each year to a book chosen by students in 3 different categories. The nominees are announced ahead of time, which allows the students to read them, and then at the end of the school year, they are voted on. My school librarian has a Sequoyah book club that meets once every 2 weeks to discuss the books, and the students are required to read a certain number of them before voting. I try to read at least one a year to my students during read aloud time. I picked this up in hopes that it could be the one, but then I realized it was for the Intermediate (Young Adult) category, and my students can only vote in the Children’s category. Oh well. It was still a cute read.
The author did a really great job of capturing the mannerisms of an 11 year old from the 1960’s south (or so I imagine). Itch was a really fun character, as was her grandmother. This was a cute, fun read that would be great for middle schoolers. I wouldn’t recommend it to students younger than 5th grade, though. It has some mild language (hell), and talks about the puberty video that the students watched in school (not in great detail though). It also deals with the tough issue of child abuse, but I think it did that very well. I do have a hard time categorizing this one. I would almost put it in the Children’s lit category, but my library had it in YA. I guess I’ll do both.