June Jackson is only 11 years old, but her dad already has her life mapped out. She’ll excel on Featherstone Creek Middle School’s field hockey and debate teams, get A’s in her classes and then attend Howard University, just like he did. Then she’ll become a lawyer and work at the firm he co-founded.
In Honest June, Tina Wells empathetically shows how these expectations burden eager-to-please June. Her parents work so hard to give her such a nice life, June muses, so what right does she have to ever tell them no?
June has become a pro at strategically nodding along and even lying. “Making people happy is what I’m good at,” she reasons. “Sometimes that means not telling people the whole truth.” Consequently, no one is aware of June’s true feelings—or how she catastrophizes about what might happen if she dares to express a contradictory opinion. But all the dissembling is wearing her down, and she’s begun having trouble focusing in class. It’s not a sustainable way to live, and June knows it.
Someone else knows it, too: Victoria, her fairy godmother (and Tracee Ellis Ross lookalike), who appears in the town carnival’s fun house and bestows a superpower upon the astonished June that renders her unable to lie. Of course, June sees the gift as a curse, and all of her many amusing attempts to circumvent the spell fail. Her only source of relief is her blog, Honest June. If June types out her feelings, she’ll never have to say them out loud, and nobody will be upset with her . . . right?
Brittney Bond’s cheerful illustrations offer a sweet counterpoint to the book’s growing psychological tensions, and their cartoonlike style keeps the tone light even as June walks an increasingly perilous tightrope. Will Victoria show up at an inopportune time? Will June’s strategies work, or will she be under the spell forever? How will June’s parents react if they find out the truth?
Readers will cheer June along on her journey and benefit from the valuable themes in Honest June. It’s a charming and resonant cautionary tale about the importance of being honest with others and—most of all—with ourselves.