Dear Toni is quick read by Canadian author, Cyndi Sand-Eveland. The diary-style writing of our main character is highlighted with “doodles” and ink illustrations to engage the reader in the life of 6th grader Gene Tucks. Gene, (named after an Uncle, despite being a girl) is a nomadic middle schooler whose only goals are making the field hockey team and having a best friend at her new school. Both goals are accomplished, but new best friend, Winnifred, (Winn) soon leaves the area to live with her Uncle and ailing mother. Gene finds solace in the landlord’s St. Bernard puppies she and Winn took care of daily.
The book never gives the reader a true climax, but rather a rolling internal dialogue from Gene’s point of view. Toni is actually the diary Gene writes in every day, giving the audience a sense that “Toni” is really Gene’s best friend. The characters could have been more fully developed, but overall the tone and style are perfect for reluctant readers who are dealing with middle school angst and concerns.