Foster care may lead to a new life, but it can also lead to a new outlook on life.
In one day, Philadelphia 12-year-old Winifred’s life changes when she is assigned to live with Margery in rural Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Fred is in the foster system because her mother, an addict, was caught stealing prescription medication from the pharmacy where she worked as a janitor. While at Margery’s, Fred develops an affinity for Toby, an abused dog that belongs to Margery’s hostile, gun-wielding neighbor, Mr. Carder. When Mr. Carder has an accident that requires extensive hospitalization, Fred and Margery take in Toby and begin to rehabilitate him. Fred also begins a tentative friendship with Ardelia “Lardvark” Lark, a big girl who is the target of school bullies. Galante packs a lot into a relatively short story, and the plot suffers as a result. The majority of the characters—Fred included—feel two-dimensional as they leap from life-changing moment to life-changing moment. As guide/foster mother/wise-woman supreme, Margery is the most nuanced, but as a single-parent foster placement in a county at three removes from Philadelphia, her inclusion in the story requires astute readers to suspend a lot of disbelief. Toby’s arc is equally improbable (if unsurprising), as he transforms from a wild, underfed, balding, and abused yard dog into a handsome, thick-coated pet. Equally disheartening is the lack of diversity in this default-white tale.
A promising plot but a cursory execution. (Fiction. 10-14)