Lucky Stella. When life drops her mother and her mother doesn't bounce, Stella has the very good fortune of coming to live with her Great-Aunt Louise whose life is filled with apple trees, blueberry bushes, a just in case coffee cake in the freezer, and a heart the size of .... what's bigger than Texas...okay, Alaska.
Louise has opened her heart to take in Stella and she opens it again to take in another sixth grade girl named Angel. Stella and Angel don't hit it off exactly. Angel is ready to run. She's a rough and tough character...thick skin. Stella has a recipe file box filled with helpful hints from Heloise and looks unbelievingly at Angel as she listens to her cold comments.
Then, the moment arrives when comfortable, loving, old Louise is sitting in her lounge chair in front of her television shows as always and there is a fly on her. Louise doesn't care. Louise will never care again. She has passed on...that great heart has given way.
Told from the first person perspective of Stella this is one of those slow growing books. Stella and Angel now only have each other. Lots of important people have left them and Louise has now added her name to the list. Angel is ready to run. Stella, armed with her file box of hints, is ready to run the summer cottages that Louise manages... used to manage.
This is one part Boxcar Children and one part Great Gilly Hopkins. The characters spread out and start growing the minute they're left on their own. Stella is about to be faced with one problem after another and a growing curiosity about Angel. We're not exactly sure what Angel is doing but you start getting glimpses of her as Stella begins to glimpse her.
It's a wonderful, rewarding story about how important it is to children to have caring, responsible adults in their lives. It's also a chance to imagine how you, as a child, would be able to survive on your own. Where would you find what you need?
I am going to swim against the tide here for a moment. I think for most young readers this will be a emotionally satisfying journey. But, I have to say that for me, the concept of two young girls being able to bury the body of the adult who has been their everything...well, that's just stretching my imagination a bit too far. Death is powerful. Dead bodies aren't like pieces of furniture. They have all kinds of emotional connections to them and putting former human beings under the earth is traumatic. Even if you're putting them out in the garden where chrysanthemums will eventually grow, it just isn't going to be something I can see two eleven year old girls capable of doing. That's my gripe with an otherwise loving, touching story.
Ages 9-12 275 pages 9780061964206
Recommend by: Barb
“There you stood on the edge of your feather
Expecting to fly”
-- Neil Young (1967)
“We sat there for a minute, looking down the empty road. Angel was
probably thinking, in a few minutes I’m on my way. I was thinking that I kind
of liked this new Angel, the girl who talked to me. And that in a few
minutes I would be left alone. With…
“’Because it would be too hard,’ Angel said.
“’I mean, I didn’t even understand half of what he was saying, never mind
be able to do it.’
“I turned to Angel. ‘Who? Do what?’
“Angel stared at me. ‘George! Run the cottages. Do all that changeover
stuff he was talking about?’
“It was my turn to stare. ‘No, Angel, that part would be easy. It’s…’
I waved my hands behind me.
“’Louise? Oh, Louise just needs to be buried. We had to bury a goat
once. It wasn’t even ours, it just wandered into our yard and died. Are you
serious about us being able to do it, run things?’
“’She’s not a goat, Angel! She’s my great Aunt!’
“’I know that. I’m just saying, you dig a big hole…’”
Up to now, eleven year-old Stella has had a pretty challenging life with a
mother whose “personal gravity was a little weak,” meaning that her
mother was in the habit of floating away.
Things were manageable when Stella’s
mother could rely on her own mother (Stella’s maternal grandmother) to
pick up the slack – but that was before Stella’s grandmother died.
Stella and her mother were then on their own for a while. But having
gotten in trouble with child protection authorities after one of her instances
of floating off and leaving Stella alone, Stella’s mother parked Stella
with her late mother’s sister -- Stella’s great Aunt Louise who lives on Cape
Cod -- and promptly took off to environs unknown.
Knowing Stella’s mother and apparently figuring that Stella would be
around for a while, Great Aunt Louise decided to also take in a foster child
named Angel. Unfortunately, Stella and Angel are like oil and water and have
not gotten along together from the get-go.
But, just as summer approaches and Louise is expected to begin weekly “
changeover” cleanings of the four rental summer cabins next door -- the Linger
Longer Cottage Colony -- that are owned by George (who is living
elsewhere), Stella and Angel come home from school and find great Aunt Louise
sprawled out in her recliner. Dead.
With her undependable mother out of reach, Stella wants to stay in this
one seemingly safe place. And Angel doesn’t want any part of being shipped
off to yet another foster home. So, after some debate, they do it! They
bury great Aunt Louise in the garden, make up a series of excuses for her
being perpetually indisposed, learn to do the cabin changeovers for George,
and survive on tips, food left behind by the renters, and the growing
understanding and camaraderie that develops between the two.
But how long can they survive like this, and what will happen with Stella
and Angel when someone finally figures out what has befallen great Aunt