Leaving Emma

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Cover of Leaving Emma

Author: Nancy Steele Brokaw

Publisher: Clarion

Published in: 1999

Age Range: Pre Teens

Period: Contemporary

Setting: Illinois

Genres:  Growing-Up


  • Emma is the young girl who must face her Father's trip abroad for his work at the same time as her best friend's family moving to the north of the state.
  • Tem has been Emma's best friends forever; she is more phlegmatic than Emma, but none the less upset at their separation.
  • Great Aunt Grace looks after Emma when her mother spends time abroad with her father and both learn from the other.


Emma's best and only real friend Tem is moving away at the same time as Emma's dad is spending several months abroad for his job, leaving Emma disconsolate and unsure how she's going to get on. TO complicate matters further, her mother decides to spend some time with her father while he's abroad and asks Great Aunt Grace to look after Emma. At first Emma is horrified, but then each of them learns how to get on with the other. Finally, Emma discovers a new set of friends as she makes the school play.


General: The story is told from Emma's point of view, as a first-person narrative and transmits all her thoughts and worries and delights and feelings without confusing the reader. In a down-to-earth way it addresses, through Emma's feelings and reactions, all the difficulties she's going through. To some extent it could be regarded as bibliotherapy, helping children in similar situations, but even as a story it stands up by itself.

Family: Emma's and Tem's families are both normal single-children families, close but not without the occasional spat, especially when Emma discovers that her father is going abroad and her mother is going to join him for a while.

I thought about all the times I'd said I couldn't do something — ride a two-wheeler —, memorize multiplication tables, get a shot at the doctor's. It seemed as if somebody had always been there saying “Yes, you can.” A lot of times that somebody had been Mom.

“Mom,” I said, trying to sound grownup, “yes, you can.”

“Can what?” she asked, looking up.

“Figure out all this computer stuff,” I said.

“But the mouse—”

“Oh, poop on the mouse,” I said. “It's easy. I'll teach you. We'll practice together. I'll show you some of my computer games. They'll be fun to use for mouse practice.”

Mom blew her nose into that really wet tissue. “Well, maybe everybody doesn't know everything, but there was this kid named Franklin Harris, and he was explaining things to the instructor and practically teaching the class.”

“Every class has one of those,” I said. “I get stuck with Emily Moss in my class every year, and she can do long division in her head. It's just your first day.”

Saturday 10th January 2004