Twelve-year-old Reena is the one who said, Maine, when her parents were trying to think of a new place to live. Both of them had lost their jobs when their newspaper downsized and the city life is beginning to be a struggle on a lot of fronts.
But, Maine it is. The packing is done, they did finally get there, and now Reena, her little brother Luke and their parents are starting a whole new life in a whole new place. You could think of it as a blank page to draw on if you wanted to. Luke would like that. He keeps his sketch book close at hand so it's there when he wants to add a dragon or an old woman to a bit of white space.
Lucky for Reena and Luke it's summer time so they have a few months to explore before school begins. Unlucky for Reena and Luke, their mother met a local woman, Mrs. Falala, at the doctor's office and she has "farmed" the two children out as unpaid help for this elderly woman with the long white braid.
Their first meeting doesn't go well. But new places and new people can be like that. They don't like Mrs. Falala and now they're stuck mucking out her stalls and getting knocked down by her intimidating cow, Zora, three days a week.
Free verse and concrete poetry run riot in this story of figuring out yourself in a new place where you haven't ever belonged before. Maine is the backdrop, a farm is the stage, and the incisive mind of Sharon Creech creates the cast of characters, their scary, discouraging moments and the amazing colors and chances that life splashes across the pages of lives.
What does it take to make someone matter to you? What can life give you to make you feel even stronger and better? How do you grow in a new place?
Crisp, sparing, and clean as a summer day in Maine, Reena and Luke and the dark-skinned girl by the fence, and the cow named Zora and the mean old lady, Mrs. Falala, will create a place where you might want to belong.
Powerfully written with a keen understanding of human and bovine hearts, young and old.
278 pages Ages 8-12 978-0062415240
Harper Collins August 2016
Recommended by: Barb Langridge, abookandahug.com