The Youngest One by Nancy Springer

The Youngest One by Nancy Springer
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (8 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Jessie is tired of dealing with her drunk mother and life in a rough part of town, and when a creepy woman approaches her one morning and advises her to pay attention to Shakespeare’s As You Like It in her English class she shrugs off the recommendation. After all, what relevance does Shakespeare have with her life? A chance encounter with an unusual toad, however, is about to completely alter Jessie’s perceptions of what matters in the world, and might just provide her with an unexpected happily-ever-after.

Is being a good person its own reward?

Jessie has a tender heart for the people and animals in her life who are too small, weak, or old to properly defend themselves against bullies. Her protective instincts have gotten her into trouble in the past, but despite growing up with a neglectful, alcoholic mom Jessie refuses to allow the tough world she lives in to dull her compassion for others. What I found most interesting about her character was how innocent she seems for her age and previous experiences. Her lack of guile is refreshing and makes this tale far more believable than it would have been in the hands of a more skeptical protagonist.

While reading this story I wondered if it was meant to appeal equally to young adult and adult audiences. Jessie is an eighth grader whose adult sized problems have caused her to grow up far too rapidly. The publisher chose not to market this piece to young adult audiences, but I think it would be appealing to middle and high school readers and would recommend it to this age group as much as I would to its intended audience.

Even though it would have been nice to have an answer to this questions, The Youngest One sparked my imagination. Jessie is an easy character to love and I would quite interested in hearing more from her in the future. I could see her starring in a series of modern day interpretations of classic fables if this is something Ms. Springer wanted to pursue.

The Youngest One is a modern day fairy tale. Is kindness magical? The best way to find out is by picking up this book!

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