Angel in My Pocket

Gr 5—8—Bette is still grieving over the death of her mother two years earlier and is struggling with other changes in her life when she finds a coin with an angel engraved on it. Her life begins to improve when a mysterious woman moves into her building, helping her work through her feelings. The coin then falls into the hands of three other classmates, and they find their lives changing for the better while meeting ethereal and enigmatic characters. The children all go to a performing-arts school and are preparing for a major production. Bette hasn't sung since her mother died, but finds the courage to sing again. After troubled and angry Joe gets his hands on the coin, he meets Mike, who encourages him to help build the sets for the play. Twins Vivi and Minkus also experience growth and somewhat miraculous occurrences after possessing the coin—Vivi's asthma improves enough for her to return to school, and Minkus develops the confidence to stand up to Joe's bullying. The children form an unlikely foursome, and each one develops as a character and a friend, though perhaps the resolutions to their issues are too simplistic. Vivi's segment seems a bit didactic, and the chapters about Joe are somewhat repetitive. Also, the angel theme is perhaps too subtle, which may cause all but the most astute readers to miss the connection. While Cooper's foray into middle-grade fiction could be enjoyed by readers wanting a story about angels or friendship, those seeking more substance may want to keep looking.—Michele Shaw, Quail Run Elementary School, San Ramon, CA
Bette finds an angel medallion that helps her access the power within herself. The medallion next goes to hardscrabble classmate Joe, then to homebody Vivian; point of view shifts among the characters. Along the way the kids encounter adult guides who inspire their emotional growth. Cooper's story refreshingly focuses less on the angel's religious symbolism than on the spirituality of self.

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