Kirkus Star


Age Range: 11 & up
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A versatile author whose popular books include rousing historical adventures (The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, 1990, Newbery Honor) and sparkling satire (Nothing But the Truth, 1991) portrays a contemporary family under unusual stress. Flying in for her annual visit with her 50-ish father, his young wife Joanna, and their new baby, Maggie (12) hopes that "nothing about her father [has] changed." Not so: Dad is unaccountably snappish and unreasonable. As the vacation on a Connecticut lake progresses, it develops that he's at odds with Joanna and has heart trouble, while even Joanna doesn't know that he lost his job just after the baby's birth and isn't taking his medication. Maggie's plea that he do so precipitates an angry outburst during which Dad nearly dies in an accident. Though sadly credible, Dad's behavior, as observed by Maggie, makes him unsympathetic and hard to like. Meanwhile, Avi draws other relationships with exceptional subtlety, especially Maggie's growing affection for her nice, intelligent stepmother, who in her need reaches out to her like a sister; and Maggie's delicate negotiation with a neighborhood bully, Tucker, who has been stalking a noble great blue heron. The heron, a potent symbol (Dad says it can mean life or death), has been Maggie's preoccupation and solace; in the end, though Dad's adult problems may defy solution, she manages to transform the belligerent Tucker's perception of the awe-inspiring bird. A thoughtful, beautifully crafted story. (Fiction. 11+)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-02-707751-9
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1992


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