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Editor Letter: Alvina Ling on The Great Jeff

Dear Reader,


Back in 2007, I published a gem of a book, Firegirl by Tony Abbott, about what happens when a severe burn victim joins a seventh-grade class. It’s a quietly powerful book about compassion that shows that even the smallest of gestures can make a difference in a person’s life.


Firegirl went on to win the Golden Kite Award, and it sold consistently for more than a decade, drawing in new readers every year. So when Tony asked me what I thought about him writing a companion book starring one of the side characters from Firegirl, I immediately told him, “Yes!” And thus, The Great Jeff was born.


Jeff Hicks was the snarky joker and sometime bully in Firegirl, and in The Great Jeff we see him in a much larger public school he’s been forced to attend because of money problems. When his single mother loses her second job in a year, their downward spiral to homelessness begins. It’s a very real portrait of a family living in poverty in the United States, and it’s also a book about loneliness and enduring friendship, hope, and resilience.


Although we do see some of the other characters from Firegirl in The Great Jeff, it completely works as a stand-alone novel in its own right. Firegirl remains one of the books I’m most proud to have published, but Tony and I agree that The Great Jeff is an even better book. You’ll have to decide for yourself!





Alvina Ling

Vice President, Editor-in-Chief

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers