Thursday, July 8, 2010

Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord

One of my favorite middle grade children's chapter books (4th to 6th grade) in the last five years was Cynthia Lord's debut novel Rules, so I was thrilled to get an advance copy of her new book. I highly recommend Rules, especially to those whose lives are touched by someone with autism, and I found her newest book to be as poignant as her first.

Book: Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord
Vital Stats: Published August 1, 2010 by Scholastic, 192 pages
Awards:Lord won the Newbery Honor for Rules and a host of other awards
Marketed Toward: Ages 9 to 12
The Quick and the Short of It: Highly recommended

Book Synopsis
A small town on an island in Maine decides to bring foster children into their houses to raise the number of students and keep their school from being closed. Tess, still reeling from her best friend moving away, places high hopes on Aaron who is coming to live with her family. Of course he isn't exactly what she had hoped (an orphan like Anne in Anne of Green Gables), but real life is always more complicated than a book. Aaron is a gifted musician, but he's never played Monoply. He's angry, uninterested in island life or catching lobsters, and he's curious about his real mom. Grace tries desperately to help him consider the island his home, but when she tries to reconnect him with his mom she might have gone too far.

My Take
Simply put, I loved this book. It's beautifully written. The island life in Maine is so perfectly drawn that the setting could be an additional character. (I love books where the setting is rich and evocative as this one is.) Tess has a number of superstitions (such as the titular touching of blue which will make a wish come true) and each chapter is headed with a new superstition that naturally weaves its way into the action of that chapter. As I read this book, I flashed back to all the superstitions of my own childhood. Tess is a believable and a relateable character trying to make the most of what life has given her. If you're anything like me, you'll be rooting for Tess, for Aaron, and for the rest of the characters in this exceptionally well done book. Cynthia Lord deserves at least another mention on the Notable list for this marvelous book.

Possible Issues/Christian Connection:
There are the obvious issues inherent with a foster child, including that Aaron's mother has lost custody of him due to drinking issues. Other than that (which is minor and shouldn't be an impediment), I don't see any issues that would cause concern for a Christian family. Acutally I was thrilled to read a book where they attended church regularly. Tess performs Peace Like a River for the talent show and Aaron becomes the church organist. It's a refreshing book and one that I whole-heartedly endorse. There are a number of families in my church who have welcomed foster children into their homes and I'm thinking about sharing my copy of this with them.

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." - James 1:27


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