TweenLit: I, Emma Freke, Aren’t We All?
To the shy and introverted, Emma Freke’s best friend, Penelope, might seem a freak; she’s super-friendly, lovable, and supportive. In Elizabeth Atkinson’s warm, humorous novel, I, Emma Freke, the freak is Emma. She’s nearly six feet tall, has very red hair, is very smart, and happens to be twelve-years-old.
Emma has no friends at school—her only friend attends Montessori—and her single mother is a bit of a twit. Emma spends miserable days at school, then returns home to work in her mother’s bead shop. She also cooks, cleans, and does the laundry while mom pursues her social life, grandpa becomes more demented, and Eggplant Parmigiana, the old dog, passes gas. On the other hand, Emma is free to come and go as she pleases and is not subjected to a lot of rules and discipline at home.
Hating the way she looks, where and how she lives, school, and life’s vicissitudes. Emma’s mom is something of a new-agey space cadet; she arranged for Emma to be home schooled by buying an old book (and none of its workbooks) and telling her she doesn’t have to go to school anymore.
Just as summer vacation is beginning, Emma is invited to a Freke family reunion—the family of the father she never knew. She flies halfway across the country, alone, with the good luck charm Penelope gave her for her birthday in her pocket. Excited to be with people that made her feel she “belongs,” Emma soon realizes some of the good aspects of life with mother.
I, Emma Freke is an enchanting story of a girl who under-appreciates herself, and who goes on an adventure that changes her life, as well as the lives of a lot of other Frekes. Finding happiness in self-acceptance, Emma returns home cheerier and self-assured.
So many of us think, “Am I weird because I…?”; I, Emma Freke is for anyone who’s ever asked that question.