The Secret Hum of a Daisy


Some authors seem to know more about me than I know about myself. I'm reading along in a story and suddenly the main character discovers something or learns something about him or herself and I am struck dumb by the instant awareness that I had that same question down inside of me and I didn't even know it.

Grace is lost.  She's twelve years old and she and her mother have moved fourteen times.  Mama got pregnant with Grace when she was only seventeen and she and Grace's father hopped a Greyhound bus and fled their town and their families so they could stay together.

Grace's father and grandfather died in a car accident.  She's had her mother all to herself since that day and they have moved like nomads from place to place in search of home.  Now, it's Grace's turn to search for home alone.  Her mother fell and drowned and it's the grandmother who had sent Grace's mother packing twelve years earlier who will take Grace in to her home and into her heart.

But Grace isn't ready for this grandmother who abandoned her mother.  Grace holds stories and feelings and history and she doesn't have any reason to trust this woman.  She yearns to live with her best friend's family...the Greene family.  

Then the cranes start appearing... little folded origami cranes.  Grace is startled and slowly begins to have the sense that her mother is talking to her from the other side and is leading her in the direction Grace is meant to follow.  A menagerie of characters in grandma's town offer bits and pieces of Grace's family story.  Here she begins to claim her true heritage and sense of where she belongs in the world. 

With laser like precision Tracy Holczer dissects the feelings and the truths that hold Grace together.  She digs deeper and deeper, peeling off Grace's layers and bringing her to an entirely new version of herself and her family.  This is a brilliantly crafted journey.   Here Grace summons the courage to go on one final treasure hunt with her mother not really knowing what she is looking for but certain that the journey is important and intuitively getting that for her to move on and to come to terms with her life, she needs to take those steps forward and trust that somewhere out there are answers.

This book is perfect for any young reader who looks below the surface of things, who searches for meaning and especially for any child whose life is less than perfect.  Jokester/Thrillseeking Party Animals will run in the other direction and that's fine.  There is room for all.

Ages  10 and up   978-0399163937   320 pages

Recommended by:  Barb,

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The only family twelve-year-old Grace has known her whole life was her mother, who up and moved them whenever she got the itch. Grace was tired of their itinerant ways and told her mother so- the night before she died. She wanted to stay put with Mrs. Greene and her daughter, Lacey, Grace's best friend. Now Grace not only finds herself without Mrs. Greene but in the custody of a grandmother she never knew, a grandmother, according to her mother, who never wanted her.

Oh my. What a lovely, poignant and heartbreaking book this is! There's a beautiful blurb by Richard Peck on the cover and it has received starred reviews from PW and SLJ as well as a warm and positive review from Kirkus. What more can I add? Not much, except that this story and Grace's voice has stuck with me since early May when I first read the book. It has it all - voice, lovely setting, memorable characters, and gorgeous cover. It's perfect. There will be tears, but also a few chuckles and maybe a bit of irritation with Grace along the way to a well and truly satisfying conclusion.

Grace's mother was an artist who loved poetry and imbued a love of poetry into her daughter, who loves to write but finds she can't since she discovered her mother's body down by the river.

"I noticed you aren't carrying around your notebook. I used to think it was stuck to your armpit," Mrs. Greene said.
It was too confusing to explain my thoughts on Before and After, since I wasn't real firm on it myself. "I haven't much felt like writing."
"I don't much feel like taking my fiber in the morning. But I need it." (p. 181)

Mrs. Greene is such a wise and wonderful character in a story filled with vivid characters.

"You will go your whole life, Gracie May, and every single person in it will fail you in one way or another. It's all about the repair. It's all about letting yourself change those pictures."
"Maybe the repair is Grandma's job. Maybe that's why Mama never went back."
"This isn't like a hole in a boat, where you get yourself some wood and some patching and you're good to go. It's a two-person job."
"So maybe I need Grandma to make the first move."
"Hasn't she?" (pp. 188-89)

This auspicious debut is a must purchase. It is a 2014 favorite of mine. I would not be surprised to hear about it come next January. Give it to your thoughtful tween readers who love weepies, lovely, layered writing, or who loved Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur.
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