In this beautifully written novel, the bonds and challenges of caring for a sibling with autism are bravely explored, along with the pain and power that comes from self-discovery.
Eleven-year-old Olivia Grant has a knack for finding lost things. She can find lost rings, pets, and even her elderly neighbor's misplaced glasses. There's only one thing Olivia has never been able to find--her brother Jacob's toy ostrich. It wasn't until the day Jacob lost his ostrich that Olivia noticed how different he was: Jacob is autistic, and though she's his little sister, Olivia often feels like the older of the pair, his caretaker. And with her parents so heavily focused on maintaining status quo for Jacob, it's Olivia who has stagnated in his shadow--unable to explore new opportunities, or to be her own person. In fact, apart from being Jacob's sister, Olivia's not really sure who she is.
So when summer break begins, and the local community theater announces auditions for an all children's production of her favorite show, Peter Pan, Olivia jumps at the chance to claim something for herself. But what begins as a promising opportunity and a wonderful escape quickly becomes pure chaos. The visiting zoo with an odd assortment of animals--including an ostrich that causes even more trouble than Jacob's missing toy--only make matters worse, as Olivia's summer is shaping up to be just as consumed by Jacob's needs as the rest of her life has been.
In time, and with the help of some unlikely alliances, Olivia must learn what it means to be separate from her brother and still love him, how to love herself in spite of her own flaws, and that not all lost things are meant to be found. --from the publisher
288 pages 978-0399546068 Ages 10 and up
******* Olivia's "super power" is finding lost items, from her neighbor's frequently misplaced glasses to her father's keys. When her brother's plastic toy ostrich goes missing, she tries to find it, to no avail. It's important to her, because the ostrich seems to calm Jacob down, but ever since it has been gone, he has been prone to melt downs, and the outward manifestations of his autism spectrum disorder seem to have increased.
It is summer vacation, which throws Jacob for a loop, but Olivia is looking forward to being in a theater production as well as visiting the small zoo that has been set up in her neighborhood with animals that need a home while the Tulsa zoo is being renovated. Because there is an ostrich in the exhibits, and she tried to sneak in to visit it, Olivia has to do community service there for six weeks. Jacob is also in the play, and Olivia worries that he will ruin things. She steps up her investigation, keeps up with her lines as well as her work at the zoo, and deals with the almost nightly escape of the ostrich, who ends up in her backyard.
Strengths: This was a realistic portrayal of a family struggling to maintain a routine and sense of normality despite the challenges that autism can present. Jacob is certainly typical of the students I have seen in my school, and Olivia's attitude is normal as well. I liked that the parents were supportive of both children and tried very hard to allow Olivia to live her own life while acknowledging that she sometimes made sacrifices because of her brother. The zoo component was interesting as well.
Weaknesses: The zoo being renovated and sending animals out to various communities was hard for me to believe. The Columbus Zoo has added or renovated lots of exhibits without rehoming animals. It certainly COULD happen, but it just seemed sort of odd to me.
What I really think: It's a good story, and I'm glad to have it, especially since we have an autism unit in our building. The title and the cover aren't fantastic, though.
Recommended by: Karen Yingling, Library Media Specialist, Ohio USA
Read more of her recommendations: msyinglingreads.blogspot.com