by Cynthia Lord
9780545035316, Scholastic, $16.99, Pub Date: August 2010
This book is a departure from my usual reading fare. It was a conscious choice - I've been reading so much fantasy lately, I wanted something with a little touch of reality.
Touch Blue is a quick, quiet, and utterly delightful middle grade novel perfect for a New England summer read. Tess Brooks and her family live year-round on an island off the coast of Maine. Her father is a fisherman, her mother, a school teacher. Their way of life is threatened when the state of Maine decrees there are too few children to continue operating the island school. The island families decide to become foster parents, simultaneously giving good homes to children in need and adding enough children to the island to (hopefully) keep the school open.
The storyline follows Tess and her family as they welcome 13-year-old, trumpet-playing Aaron. Tess and her younger sister are so excited to have a friend (possibly an older brother?), and can't understand it when Aaron doesn't return their enthusiasm. Aaron's been bounced around from home-to-home, and still has some secret, contact with his mother. Can this city born-and-bred skittish boy accept the warmth, humor, and lifestyle of the island folks?
What I loved most about this book is that while it can certainly be used as an "issue" novel - as in, hand it to a child as a gentle introduction to what being a foster child can be like - Cynthia Lord has crafted a touching slice-of-life tale of love, family, and lobstering in Maine.