Monday, November 4, 2019

Dear Sweet Pea

Dear Sweet Pea by Julie Murphy. Grades 4-6. Balzer + Bray, October 2019. 288 pages. Reviewed from digital galley provided by publisher. 

I had high hopes for Julie Murphy's first middle grade novel because I am a huge fan of Dumplin' and Puddin'. Friends, it was everything I hoped it would be.


Sweet Pea is a small town Texas girl with a lot on her plate right now. Her parents have just gotten divorced because her dad realized that he's gay. Things are heating up in the war against her former best friend who ditched her for some older, cooler, thinner? girls. And her neighbor, Miss Flora Mae the eccentric author of the town newspaper's advice column has left town, charging Sweet Pea with gathering her mail and sending it to her so she can continue to write the column - all top secret, of course.

Things start to really go awry when Sweet Pea decides to crash Kiera's birthday party and completely humiliates herself by throwing up all over Trampoline World. That's why, when she sees that Kiera has written Miss Flora Mae for advice about her parents fighting, she takes it upon herself to write a mean-spirited response and slip it into Flora Mae's submissions for the paper.

And it all goes downhill from there.

My thoughts:

I loved that this is a book about a fat kid that felt very real to me - it's written by a fat lady and includes incidents like dress shopping when the stores don't carry your sizes and how you feel when a friend talks about getting fat like it's the worst thing that could ever happen to you. But the book is firmly centered on the story. It's not an issue book about being the fat kid or even about self-acceptance (although readers will get plenty of those elements). It's a story about growing up and navigating friendships and navigating changes in your family.

I loved Sweet Pea so much - she's not afraid to be herself, but she's not fearless either. She felt extremely real to me. I would read a thousand books about her.


  • All Four Stars by Tara Dairman (Putnam, 2014). These sweet and funny books both feature girls writing anonymously for newspapers - Sweet Pea writes Miss Flora Mae's advice column and Gladys (All Four Stars) writes restaurant reviews for a city paper despite being expressly forbidden from dealing with food after starting a fire in the family's kitchen trying to use a cooking blowtorch. 
  • Shug by Jenny Han (Simon, 2006). Southern, small-town girls deal with changes to their family and friends in these character-driven novels.