From two-time Newbery Honor and New York Times–bestselling author Kevin Henkes, this timeless novel about loss, loneliness, and friendship tells the story of the spring break that changes seventh-grader Amelia Albright’s life forever.
Amelia Albright dreams about going to Florida for spring break like everyone else in her class, but her father—a cranky and stubborn English professor—has decided Florida is too much adventure.
Now Amelia is stuck at home with him and her babysitter, the beloved Mrs. O’Brien. The week ahead promises to be boring, until Amelia meets Casey at her neighborhood art studio. Amelia has never been friends with a boy before, and the experience is both fraught and thrilling. When Casey claims to see the spirit of Amelia’s mother (who died ten years before), the pair embarks on an altogether different journey in their attempt to find her.
Using crisp, lyrical, literary writing and moments of humor and truth, award-winning author Kevin Henkes deftly captures how it feels to be almost thirteen.
With themes of family, death, grief, creativity, and loyalty, Sweeping Up the Heart is for readers of Kate DiCamillo, Rebecca Stead, Lauren Wolk, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, and Pam Muñoz Ryan.
192 pages 978-0062852540 Ages 8-12
Richie’s Picks: SWEEPING UP THE HEART by Kevin Henkes, Greenwillow, March 2019, 192p., ISBN: 978-0-06-285254-0
“Every happy ending needs to have a start”
-- Justin Hayward, “You Can Never Go Home” (1971)
“Then she wondered about herself--something she was doing a lot lately. She wondered about her own place in the world. What would it be? Who would she become? Would she stay in Madison, Wisconsin, all her life? Or would she travel widely and move far away?
She wondered why she, Amelia Epiphany Albright, often felt so unlike everyone else. She wondered when her real life--the one she’d been waiting for--would finally begin.
It was 1999. Where would she be in a year? In ten? In less than nine months it would be 2000. All the numbers in the year would be changing. That seemed important to Amelia. Maybe, soon, something important will happen to me, she thought.
She wondered if knowing her mother would have provided answers to all that was unsolved within her. And then she wondered if her mother had had knobby knees, too.
All of it--life, the world, her knees--was so strange if you thought about it long enough. And whenever she felt like she understood even a tiny piece of the world, the understanding disappeared right away like a light shutting off.”
No matter how many wonderful stories I read about a child’s transition to adolescence, I never tire of the subject matter. SWEEPING UP THE HEART is one of those masterful coming of age stories.
For so many of us, the onset of adolescence provides a double whammy: challenges both with our peers and with our parents.
When I read how Amelia’s childhood best friend had suddenly turned on her, joining a popular group without a glace back, and now walking around hand-in-hand with a boy, my mind wandered back to my own experience. The party for my eleventh birthday, with all the guys at my house, was such a high. Then, in a blink of an eye, the guys sprouted long legs, became style-conscious, and began holding hands with girls. I can still see myself left in the dust, puzzled by the foreign language they’d all somehow acquired.
Dealing with parents at this age may well remind us of history lessons regarding colonies trying to break free. We strive for autonomy but it feels like we’re penned inside thirty-foot-high walls erected by our parent countries.
For motherless twelve year-old Amelia Albright, this week of spring vacation will find her suddenly confronting adolescent challenges involving peers and parents.
Amelia feels like she never goes anywhere. She’d fancied the idea of traveling to Florida, a place where many of her friends’ families were heading for Spring Break. Instead, her professor dad has decided that they’d spend a quiet week at home. But when artistic Amelia steps into the nearby clay studio, which forever has been her home away from home, Spring Break gets a lot more interesting. Into her life steps a stranger, the studio owner’s nephew and fellow twelve year-old, Casey Kirkwood-Cole. Casey will become the first boy with whom Amelia’s ever been real friends.
Casey is in town this week, staying with his aunt, while his parents attend a retreat in hopes of salvaging their crumbling marriage. He is powerless to effect the reconciliation he so desires.
Amelia and Casey immediately discover support, friendship, and humor in the time they share. They also encounter mystery when a woman who strikingly resembles red-headed Amelia, unexpectedly and repeatedly appears wherever Amelia and Cole are hanging out. Could she somehow be Amelia’s mother, who was supposed to have died a decade ago?
For fourth and fifth graders heading toward adolescence, SWEEPING UP THE HEART could well serve as a beginner’s guide for the years ahead. I wish I’d had it back then.
192 pages 978-0062852540 Ages 8-12
Recommended by: Richie Partington, MLIS, California USA
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