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Sunday, April 10, 2011

What Happened on Fox Street, written by Tricia Springstubb. Balzer & Bray, Harper. 2010. $17.99 ages 8 and up

"Raining! The wind's rough fingers had planted the air with rain seeds and they were blooming, silver blossoms falling on Fox Street. She watched the rain darken the roofs and the hard, parched ground. As if she herself were a thing with roots, she sensed the plum tree sigh and drink. Up on Paradise, the passing cars made swishing sounds. Mo tilted her head and stuck out her tongue."

There is nowhere Mo would rather be than Fox Street, with its eclectic collection of neighbors and friends, her little sister Dottie and her handsome and sad father. Since their mother's death, Mo has a great deal of responsibility for Dottie's day to day care. Her father is working hard; often being called in when there is a water emergency. The Wild Child (Dottie) is everyone's favorite, young and sparkling and full of energy and love. Mo is missing her mom, doing her best to keep the family afloat and worrying that they might be leaving the only home she has ever known.

Mo loves summer when her best friend Mercedes returns to spend time with her grandmother Da, who also lives on Fox Street. This summer is not the same...Mercedes is different and Mo is dealing with a number of issues that make her angry all the time:

"And Dottie was the Princess of Mess. Only far, far worse than usual. The snarls in her hair had become permanent - nothing but scissors would cure them. And that T-shirt - when was the last time she'd changed it? So extensive was her grubbiness, she appeared to be wearing dirt-colored pads on her knees and elbows. Mo had been neglecting things, all right. The realization made her even angrier."

Everything is changing and Mo does not like change. Even her father is looking for a new beginning, and is considering an offer to sell their house. Fox Street and its environs are who Mo is. She loves living there, her memories of her mother are all mixed up with their life there, and she knows her neighbors, their foibles and their support for her family. She hasn't yet seen a real fox in the Green Kingdom nearby; but she knows it is there and harbors a secret desire to meet it face to face!

The sense of place is oh, so strong, the characters are real and worth knowing. Da and Mrs Steinbott (called Starchbutt by the neighborhood's children) are strong women who have more in common than anyone really knows. The Baggott boys run riot on the street giving it just the dose of exuberance that it needs and Mercedes is seeing it in a different, and somewhat negative, light now that she no longer lives there. Mo knows change is coming and she's preparing herself:

"She patted her pocket, where the twin plum pits waited. Her idea was for her and Merce to plant them on the very same day, at the precise same hour, Mercedes in her backyard in Cincinnati and Mo...wherever. She'd visit Merce's tree, and Merce would visit hers. The trees would grow up together, the exact same age, with the very same parent." 

This is a memorable and thoughtful tale of love, longing and letting go. It is worth a lot of attention. Once you have read it, I know that you will be aching to tell someone about it. Isn't that the best way to get it into the right hands?

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