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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Winter Sky, written by Patricia Reilly Giff. Wendy Lamb Books, Random House. 2014. $17.99 ages 8 and up

"Long ago, astronomers noticed something unusual about Sirius. The star didn't sail across the sky in a straight line as they expected it to do. It took years to find out why. Sirius wasn't alone. A genuine white dwarf star traveled with her, the two circling the sky together. One looking after the other. The white star couldn't be seen, not even by Sirius. But it was there. Sirius was never alone."

I have long admired Patricia Reilly Giff's writing. I shared her stories with my own children, and in my classrooms. I would also love to share this new story of Siria, a young lady born on New Year's Day and named for the star Sirius by her mother.

"But here, where the mother lived, only a glimpse of it
could be caught in August. But it January it shone in
the sky, huge and glowing, the month of her baby's
The star was called Sirius.
"That's what we named our daughter," the mother
said. "Siria, for the brightest star."

Siria remembers little about her mother, who died when Siria was a small girl. She knows stories from her father and she has a star book that belonged to her mother. She also has a belief that her mother trusts her to take care of her father, a firefighter. To that end, Siria and her best friend Douglas sneak out at night to follow sirens that might be leading her father into danger. She knows it's taboo, and she knows that she will be in big trouble if she gets caught. She can't help it. She has a need to know that he is always safe. Her fire chasing builds tension for readers of this fine family story.

When she sees evidence of other fires being set, she tells no one. She fears that it is the work of an arsonist, and she is determined to discover the source of the fires. When a piece of evidence, and a few other clues, lead her to believe that her friend Douglas is the fire starter, she confronts him. He is astounded that she would believe such a thing.

Siria's story is told with heartwarming attention to the family that surrounds her. She has her Pop, the fire fighters at his firehouse, her babysitter Mimi, her friends Laila and Douglas, a scary-looking, stray dog and the people of her neighborhood. All play a part in a story of a girl who is feisty and courageous, while also being compassionate and clearly connected to those who love her.

The plot twist that has to do with the wolf-like, hungry dog will satisfy those who love stories of rescued animals. The story would make a wonderful readaloud in an intermediate classroom, and offers many opportunities for discussion of a variety of important issues. 

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