Touch Blue

Touch Blue

Welcome to a small island community in Maine woven tightly with fishing families and traditions and patterns that have repeated forever. All of this is in danger of fading away because there just aren't enough children left to attend the island schoolhouse and the State of Maine is considering closing it down.

If the schoolhouse goes, the island will never be the same. So, the islanders have come up with a plan. Island families will take in foster children to increase the schoolhouse numbers.

As the story opens, Tess and her little sister are waiting impatiently for the ferry to arrive bringing thirteen-year-old Aaron and all of his possibilities. "Touch blue and your wish will come true." Tess is wishing for a friend to replace her best friend Amy who moved off the island.

Aaron arrives toting a trumpet and a less than friendly attitude. He is walking into a world in which everyone knows everyone else's business. They share the same few roads and ship radios and everyone's lives intertwine whether they like it or not. Aaron has bounced from foster family to foster family and his wish is for his mother to get well enough to take him back. She is struggling with drinking and drug abuse.

We watch through Tess' eyes as the family tries to show Aaron how welcome he is and how they want him to be a part of this warm, connected family. He has a place to belong now. But Aaron wants his own family and mistrusts his new world especially when the town bully, Eben Calder, starts telling him he's only there to add to the student population and save the school.

This is a tender story with a delicate touch. If you can imagine the voice of the trumpet singing out from behind Aaron's closed bedroom door, you can get a sense of the trembling, sensitive feelings that are at work. Should we always pull the petals from the daisy? Should we touch blue to guarantee our good luck? Or should we watch the wisdom of the universe at work and look to understand the path we're guided to and carry our happiness within?

Again, as she did so brilliantly in RULES, Cynthia Lord creates characters we root for and befriend.

Ages 9-13 - 186 pages

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Second Review:

The residents of Bethsaida, a small island off Maine, are in danger of losing their public school because of declining student enrollment.Thinking that they can combine good works with saving the school, several of the island families agree to become foster parents, thus increasing the student population on Bethsaida.

Tess Brooks’ family is matched to thirteen-year-old Aaron Spinney.Aaron’s mother has lost custody due to her substance abuse problems.Aaron is a talented trumpet and piano player who resents not only his loss of a creative outlet in jazz band but much more deeply his mother’s inability to care for him.

Tess is a great believer in luck (Each chapter is headed with a good luck or bad luck adage.), and the title of the book is from one of her aphorisms (Touch blue and your wish will come true.).Good-hearted Tess works hard to create the happy foster environment she would like Aaron to have and believes he deserves.She also realizes that not all foster placements are successful as she references The Great Gilly Hopkins; Bud, Not Buddy; and Anne of Green Gables as her guides.

I liked this book for middle graders although I have to admit that most of my experience with the foster care system is having had some foster children in my classes and reading, like Tess, the same three books as she.That being said, is it appropriate to go any deeper into a difficult subject in this age-level book?I believe Cynthia Lord finds an age-appropriate balance for this emotionally challenging subject.

Recommended by Katherine Stehman, Teacher Librarian.

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