Monday, October 26, 2009

The Year the Swallows Came Early

Booklist starred (February 15, 2009 (Vol. 105, No. 12))
Grades 4-6. In San Juan Capistrano, the swallows return each year, but 10-year-old Eleanor, aka Groovy, is more concerned about her father, who was arrested before her eyes. It’s shocking enough to learn that he’s taken a $25,000 inheritance left to Groovy that she could have used someday for cooking school, but it’s equally hard to hear that her mother is the one who called the cops. Meanwhile, Groovy’s friend Frankie has his own parental problems. Fitzmaurice, a first-time novelist, offers readers a small, quiet, yet empowering story with an underlying message of forgiveness. The plotting is sometimes creaky. Groovy’s father is arrested for something that is seemingly not illegal, since he is the guardian of his minor daughter’s money, and he’s released from jail without a trial; but these details will be problematic for adults more than children. What all readers will appreciate are the beautiful portraits of the characters, young and old, and the way the story delicately weaves its seaside setting into the story. Groovy’s first-person narrative sensitively shows both her strength and her uncertainty, and in the end readers will understand when she finally embraces what she knows to be true: You gotta forgive.

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