by Tonya Duncan Ellis

Oh, the tangled web we weave…

Sixth grader Sophie Washington thought she had life figured out when she was younger, but this school year, everything has changed. She feels like an outsider, because she’s the only one in her class without a cell phone, and her crush, new kid Toby Johnson, has been calling her best friend, Chloe. To fit in, Sophie changes who she is. Her plan to become popular works for a while, and she and Toby start to become friends.

In between the boy drama, Sophie takes a whirlwind class field trip to Austin, TX, where she visits the state museum, eats Tex-Mex food, and rides a kayak. Back at home, Sophie fights off buzzards from her family’s roof, dissects frogs in science class, and has fun at her little brother Cole’s basketball tournament.

Things get more complicated when Sophie “borrows” a cell phone from a neighbor and gets caught. If her parents make her tell the truth, what will her friends think? Turns out Toby has also been hiding something, and Sophie discovers the best way to make true friends is to be yourself.

He loves me. He loves me not.

I shrug my shoulders and tug the last petal off the cream-colored daisy, watching it drift to the floor. Then I scoot the mess under my bed with my feet. I have been playing this game every morning for the past week and come out losing more often than not.

“It’s no use,” I moan. “Toby will never like me!” Toby Johnson joined our sixth-grade class this past fall, and it’s as if I’m seeing things through 3D glasses. Mom hardly has to call me to come down for school in the morning, because I can’t wait to get there. Our boring Texas history class is exciting now that Toby sits in the seat in front of me. Even P.E., which I’ve always hated, is fun, because Toby is in the class. He tells funny jokes, is good in sports, and talks to everyone, even the shy and quiet kids.

Toby is a good student, so the teachers like him, too. And, he has all kinds of neat stories to tell about his old school in Cleveland, Ohio, where his family moved from. Toby says that in Cleveland they have enough snow every winter to make snowmen as tall as he is. I’ve never seen snow, except once when we drove through some flurries on a road trip to New Mexico.

Things have been great since Toby got here, except he doesn’t know I like him, and probably doesn’t care. He’s too busy making Goo Goo eyes at my best friend Chloe, the prettiest girl in the class. Not that I’m bad looking or anything, but next to her, I’m not so much. She’s tall and has long, black, curly hair, and wears cute red bows and bracelets that make her look like a movie star, even in our school uniform. I, on the other hand, wear ponytails and need glasses to see the board.



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Sophie Washington is an excellent protagonist for young readers. Her voice is spot-on. Her humor is adorable, and she’s just so relatable. I could feel my sixth-grade self agreeing with her logic. And my adult self cringed, knowing how much trouble I’d gotten into for trying to get away with similar stuff.

THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT SOPHIE presents a great look at today’s middle school dilemmas. The classic struggles to be cool and liked are felt so strongly. Sophie’s crush on her classmate is that perfect young type of crush when it’s all about how nice the guy is to a quiet girl. The chemistry between Sophie and her friends was great, and the level of conflict reflected the age range well. As an adult, I could relate, even though cell phones weren’t something my generation had until almost high school. For today’s kids, it’s very timely.

I really felt for Sophie. She’s the only one of her friends without a cell phone and is afraid she’s uncool because of it. I remember having similar thoughts when I was the only person on my morning bus ride who didn’t have a portable CD player. Sophie tells one lie after another, developing increasingly complicated plans to get a cell phone. By the end, lessons are learned, but not in a preachy way.

Sophie Washington is both educational and entertaining. I definitely recommend this for kids around fourth through sixth grades. It would even be good for slightly younger kids to read with a parent. It’s so refreshing to find an author who captures kid life so well. Looking forward to reading more from Tonya Duncan Ellis.


Tonya Duncan Ellis was born and raised in Louisville, KY. She loves reading so much that as a child she took books with her everywhere. She knew she wanted to become a writer after an article she wrote was published in her hometown newspaper when she was a teen. Since then, Tonya has worked as a journalist and freelance magazine writer. She\’s an award-winning author of the Sophie Washington children\’s book series, geared towards readers ages 8 to 12. The books recount adventures of Houston, TX preteen Sophie Washington and her diverse group of friends. Each funny and heartwarming story teaches lessons about friendship, responsibility, truthfulness and perseverance. Books in the series include Queen of the Bee, The Snitch, Things You Didn\’t Know About Sophie, and The Gamer. When she\’s not writing, Tonya enjoys reading, biking, swimming, travel and spending time with her husband and three children. She lives in Houston, TX.

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Tonya Duncan Ellis will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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