Frances, a white fifth-grader who calls herself Figgrotten, carries a heavy burden of isolation and loneliness that she is unwilling to recognize.
Deeply involved in nature, Figgrotten likes nothing better than spending a day on the rocky hill behind her house, immersed in the outside world. She sleeps with her window open, and her bedroom is packed with her finds: tree branches, birds’ nests, and assorted other reminders of nature. Her deep friendship with Alvin, the richly intuitive, elderly driver of her school bus, provides just enough emotional support to sustain her. But she’s found effective ways to isolate herself: she dresses oddly, interacts hardly at all with her classmates, and keeps herself tightly reined in from saying too much in school, although her teacher endeavors to ease her way. Like a couple of others in her class, quiet Fiona, with a voice “like a papery whisper,” and new boy James, who hides by burying his face in books, Figgrotten remains safe but alone in a sharply circumscribed orbit. With her relationship with her older sister, Christinia, crumbling, followed by the death of Alvin, Figgrotten’s world falls apart. It’s only after she begins to bridge the gap between herself and the affectingly evoked Fiona, Christinia, and eventually even James, that she finds solace.
A moving depiction of unique characters, grief, and the benevolent power of forgiveness. (Fiction. 9-12)