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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sparrow Road, written by Sheila O'Connor. Puffin, Penguin. 2012. $7.99 ages 10 and up

"The man was here at Sparrow Road? "Is it Diego?" I heard the hope squeak out in my voice; Diego would be the perfect dad. Maybe that's why he told Mama she should tell me. And why he'd asked about my dad the first day we met. And why he spent all that time with Mama. Maybe Mama brought me here to meet Diego. "Mama, is it him?"

Raine O'Rourke thinks her life in Milwaukee is perfect; she lives there with her dearly loved grandfather and her mother. They are together, and she thinks they are content. When her mother suddenly uproots the two of them to spend the summer at Sparrow Road, Raine is angry that the decision was made without her input. She is also very sad to leave Grandpa Mac behind, to work in his store alone.

Her mother has decided, and Raine has no choice but to go with her. While her mother cooks meals for the artists who find inspiration and quiet to do their work at Sparrow Road, Raine must learn to abide by the rules set out by Viktor:

"Of course the artists' sheds, their rooms and all those spaces are totally off-limits. Always. Like the silence until supper; that rule must be honored. The artists came for quiet. They must be left alone."

There is more to this visit than meets the eye. As the days pass, and Raine comes to know the artists who are resident for the summer, she is able to uncover some secrets. Some are easier to figure out than others. One in particular is the reason for her mother taking this summer job, and bringing Raine with her. Once uncovered, it takes Raine some time to come to grips with its many parts.

This is an appealing story about family, friendships, growing up and acceptance. Raine grows to love Sparrow Road and its inhabitants, the joys of open spaces and small towns, the close connections to be made with those she meets. Sparrow Road is a wonderfully appealing place, and the author gives it life through her fine description of it inside and out. She tells her readers about the place it once was, and is now. Setting holds pride of place, along with the lovely and loving characters she introduces to help Raine through what starts out to be a boring and lonesome summer. Hopeful and heartwarming, and I loved it.

It would make a wonderful read aloud to begin a new school year.

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