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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Moonpenny Island, written by Tricia Springstubb. Balzer & Bray, Harper. 2015. $19.99 ages 8 and up

"Above her, the air goes electric, then hollow. Something swift and silent scoops it clean, and Flor flings her hands over her head. The grass beside the road parts, and she can sense the owl, his spread wings, his sharp beak and steely talons. Eeek! A pitiful scream rises from the grass. It cuts off abruptly, and the night closes back up, once more deadly quiet, except for that small whimpering sound." Which is her. Flor herself."

Poor Flor! Everything about the serene life she lives on Moonpenny Island is about to change ... and in big ways. Those changes involve her family, her best friend and a strange girl who seems to be watching every move that Flor makes.

Life on Moonpenny Island has been perfect until this summer.  Flor can ride her bike over every part of her island, her school is small and she and her best friend Sylvie are the only sixth graders, she knows everyone in their small island community and the beauty of the idyllic setting soothes her soul. Then, Sylvie is shipped off the island to attend school on the mainland. Why would her parents do that?  Flor's mother leaves to take of her ailing grandmother and be with her extended family. Is it because she and Flor's father fight all the time? Will her mother come back? Her sister is acting in very peculiar and secretive ways. And, what about her little brother, and Sylvie's brother who seems bent on making as much trouble as he can for Flor's father, the only policeman on their tiny island.

Flor shows great concern for all of them, and worries about their future and her own. How can so many things change at one time, and will it ever be the same again? As she comes to grips with all that is changing in her life, she begins to realize that there might also be new experiences and new friends. Meeting Jasper and her unusual father, offers Flor a chance to see her island home through another pair of eyes, and perhaps to see it more clearly.

The book's setting is like an additional character, bound up in the story in every way. The descriptions are often lyrical, the scenes filled with a love for its natural beauty. Flor's love for her island home is emotional and always evident. Flor is an outstanding character: loyal to her friends and family, protective of her island and its occupants, and accepting change as best she can.

This is a story of friendship and family, loss and transformation, secrets and discovery, and always hope. Beautifully written, with fully realized characters and an incomparable setting, it is a book that will find new fans for Ms. Springstubb's superb writing. Every scene is memorable, leading readers through honest and realistic family drama to an ending that will soothe hearts.

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