The Only Black Girls in Town

By Brandy Colbert

Ages 8 to 12.

Alberta, age 12, has lived in the small California town of Ewing Beach since she was a toddler and has had the same best friend, Laramie, since she was 9 years old. But as Alberta gets ready to start seventh grade, she has the strange feeling that “things are changing too quickly and not quickly enough.”

Her two fathers still say she can’t compete in surfing competitions until next year. And Alberta’s least-favorite person in the world, an eighth-grade neighbor named Nicolette, is as mean as ever. Which makes it even more confusing when Laramie starts hanging out with her.

On the positive side, Alberta and her parents are pleasantly surprised when a Black mother and her 12-year-old daughter, Edie, move into the bed-and-breakfast across the street. In an overwhelmingly White town, where Alberta says “even most of the tourists are White,” she will no longer be the only Black student in seventh grade.

The two girls get along well, even though Edie misses Brooklyn, the part of New York City where she grew up, and doesn’t seem interested in Alberta’s favorite activity, surfing. When Edie finds a box of journals in her new bedroom, she invites Alberta to help piece together the stories within them and figure out who wrote them 65 years ago. Alberta and Edie carry on their research in secret, hoping to solve the mystery without adult help or interference. Journal entries are sprinkled throughout the book, spurring readers to see if they can figure out what was kept hidden so long ago.

Throughout the two months described in “The Only Black Girls in Town,” author Brandy Colbert follows Alberta as she deals with some other changes, too. Alberta isn’t sure, for instance, what to expect when Denise, her biological mother, comes to stay a few weeks before she’s due to have a baby.

Alberta realizes that she’s growing up and tries to see the people around her more clearly than she had before. She also wants to be appreciated for the person she’s becoming. How will she deal with the inevitable misunderstandings that happen when you’re making a new friend and trying to keep an old one? Alberta has to navigate occasionally rough waters, but it helps to have a great support system and an endless supply of waves.

You might also like . . .

In Lisa Moore Ramée’s “A Good Kind of Trouble,” 12-year-old Shayla wants to follow the rules, but she realizes that she has to start making some of her own decisions after she hears about a local injustice. (Ages 8 to 12.)

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl,” by Stacy McAnulty, follows a girl who not only survived being hit by lightning but became a math genius from the strike. Now her grandmother is making the home-schooled Lucy go to middle school for a year and make (at least) one friend. (Ages 8 to 12.)

Reader Camila Rodriguez, who’s 10 and lives in Hollywood, Florida, recommended “Guts” by Raina Telgemeier. Camila said, “Raina’s best friend, Jane, makes a new friend, Michelle. When Michelle is in the hospital, Raina realizes it’s okay to have another friend.” (Ages 8 to 12.)

Next time in book club

by Madelyn Rosenberg

Ages 8 to 12.

Seventh-grader Ahab and his friends find what they think may be the last bullfrog in Maine. It’s the late 21st century, and the natural world has been badly damaged because of climate change. They could give the frog to the Environmental Police Force, a government agency that’s doing a terrible job of protecting what’s left of the natural world. Or they could work together to find a mate for the frog, whom they’ve named Alpha, and possibly save the species. The kids decide Alpha’s future is safer in their hands.

Join the club

It’s the last week to join the Summer Book Club, which is open to kids ages 6 to 14. They may read some or all of the books on our list. (Find a blurb for each book at The first 700 kids registered will receive a flying disc. To join the club, children must be registered by a parent or guardian. To register, that adult must fill out our form at by Sunday. If you have questions, contact