Jenny's 2010 Picks
by Cynthia Lord
Get ready for a great summer read for the whole family. Cynthia Lord, who received a Newbery Honor for her first novel, Rules, here explores with humor and poignancy a modern-day situation in her home state of Maine. As year-round island residents struggle to keep their schools filled after the summer visitors head home, Reverend Beal on Bethsaida Island comes up with a plan: if the residents who remain agree to take in foster children, they will have enough students to keep the school filled. Eleven-year-old Tess Brooks is excited by the idea of adding 13-year-old Aaron Spinney to her family. Her best friend, Amy, moved to the mainland (“It takes two people to be best friends, and lately, I think I’m the only one who still cares”), and Tess is lonely. She hopes Aaron will be more like Anne of Green Gables and less like the Great Gilly Hopkins. Even though not everyone embraces the plan, the Brooks family is a loving bunch who hopes to make Aaron feel welcome. But cruel Eben Calder reveals to Aaron the islanders’ motive for taking in the foster children, and only adds to Aaron’s growing skepticism.
Lord smoothly follows Tess’s ups and downs as she tries to forge a friendship with Aaron. The heroine’s optimistic nature sometimes causes her to overlook key clues to Aaron’s inner emotions, but other times she’s completely keyed in, as when she hears him play the trumpet for the first time: “He makes that trumpet sound both beautiful and hurt.” Behind the scenes, Tess precipitates Aaron’s musical performance at the 4th of July picnic, and also plants a seed for Aaron’s mother to attend the island’s talent show at summer’s end. Through the course of the novel, Tess and Aaron learn a great deal about each other and themselves, and not in the ways they’d expected. A moving story of making your own luck and creating a sense of belonging from the inside out.