A Soft Place to Land

a soft place to land janae marks

In this compelling and heartfelt mystery story, Janae Marks—author of the critically acclaimed bestselling From the Desk of Zoe Washington—follows a young girl reshaping her meaning of home. Perfect for fans of Erin Entrada Kelly and Rebecca Stead.

“Joyful. A book that kids will love.” —Rebecca Stead, Newbery Medal-winning author of When You Reach Me

Joy Taylor has always believed home is the house she lived in her entire life. But then her dad lost his job, and suddenly, home becomes a tiny apartment with thin walls, shared bedrooms, and a place for tense arguments between Mom and Dad. Hardest of all, Joy doesn’t have her music to escape through anymore. Without enough funds, her dreams of becoming a great pianist—and one day, a film score composer—have been put on hold.

A friendly new neighbor her age lets Joy in on the complex’s best-kept secret: the Hideout, a cozy refuge that only the kids know about. And it’s in this little hideaway that Joy starts exchanging secret messages with another kid in the building who also seems to be struggling, until—abruptly, they stop writing back. What if they’re in trouble?

Joy is determined to find out who this mystery writer is, fast, but between trying to raise funds for her music lessons, keeping on a brave face for her little sister, and worrying about her parents’ marriage, Joy isn’t sure how to keep her own head above water.---from the publisher

288 pages                           978-0062875877                          Ages 8-12

Keywords:  mystery, parents, values, social justice, family life, secrets, 8 year old, 9 year old, 10 year old, 11 year old, 12 year old


“There is a place

Where I can go

When I feel low

When I feel blue”

-- Lennon/McCartney “There’s a Place” (1963)

“‘Well,’ I start. ‘My family and I moved here because we had to sell our house. My dad lost his job a few months ago, and they couldn’t afford the mortgage anymore. It was going to’--I pause to remember the word my parents used--’foreclose and the bank was going to take it away from us. But before that happened, my parents put it up for sale and found a new family to buy it.’ I swallow, and there’s a big lump in my throat. I lived in that house for my entire life until today. It felt like a member of my family, that now we’ve lost. Saying goodbye to it this morning was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

I blink a bunch of times so I won’t cry.”

Twelve-year-old Joy Taylor has gone from her own bedroom in that single-family home to the bunk bed she now shares with her little sister Malia in a small apartment across town. She also has to give up piano lessons, putting a dent in her dream of growing up to become a film score composer.

The new apartment gets smaller and smaller as her parents' financial and interpersonal difficulties lead to screaming matches and, eventually, to her father moving out.

Fortunately, Joy is befriended by a new schoolmate, Nora. In addition to bringing Joy into an existing circle of peers--all of them living in that apartment building--Nora introduces Joy to the Hideout. A small, unmarked door on the floor of a cleaning supply closet leads to a long-forgotten room that serves as a secret clubhouse for kids in the building. Miserable about the tension between her parents, Joy readily slips into the habit of deceiving Mom and Dad about her whereabouts, and joins her new friends underground.

In the Hideout, Joy begins an exchange of communications--written on a wall--with an unknown person who is struggling like she is. Trying to figure out the identity of the other writer becomes a mystery for Joy to solve.

Meanwhile, yearning to return to piano lessons, and wanting money to do so, Joy exhibits determination and resourcefulness by establishing an after school dog-walking business with Nora.

Of course, there are serious pitfalls relating to lying to parents. Then, it seems, everything goes wrong. Fortunately, the resulting bad times for Joy will eventually lead to a positive resolution.

A SOFT PLACE TO LAND is a quick and engaging read. The 8-12 crowd will eat this one up.

Recommended by:  Richie Partington, MLIS, California  USA

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