Circa, 11, and her father have nearly always engaged in a clever game they call Shopt.
Since his job is restoring old photos using Photoshop, the game is a natural. He inserts unexpected objects into conventional images and then crafts funny stories to explain the bizarre photos—which, happily, are enticingly sprinkled throughout the novel. After he dies in a tragic accident, Circa’s mother, who has been depressed for many years, has trouble coping—and Circa begins to encounter little clues that the Shopt images may contain a bit of magic. Do the pasted-in objects actually take on an existence of their own, and can that explain the sudden appearance at their doorstep of a young teen boy named Miles, who has no memory but a highly coincidental connection to her father’s death? Or maybe Circa’s just imagining the possibilities as she navigates the minefield of her own grief. She only gradually reveals her suspicions to Miles and her best friend, Nattie, who are just as tantalized as readers will be by the “fresh, sticky web of wonder” that accompanies the very chance of such magic. Sadly, it becomes clear that at least most of the coincidences can be explained by mundane reality, although there remains an alluring whiff of enchantment.
Just a tinge of fantasy pervades this captivating tale of grief and acceptance and of the power of imagination. (Magical realism. 10-14)