Lily, an orphaned 12-year-old who lives in a small eastern Maine town, becomes fast friends with Salma, a Latina migrant worker who has come with her family to pick blueberries.
At first glance the distance between the pair seems vast, but they share some common interests, including finding a way to help Lily’s elderly, blind dog, Lucky, regain his eyesight. Lily, who lives with her caring Franco-American grandparents, is plucky and determined; she’s painting special houses for native mason bees to sell to raise money for expensive though risky surgery for Lucky. She’s also dealing with the apparent unwinding of her BFF status with Hannah, reigning Downeast Blueberry Queen, a role that comes with a big monetary prize. Against all odds, including Lily’s own incipient prejudice, Salma decides to run for queen, and, unexpectedly, Hannah offers useful assistance. Lord tenderly explores Lily’s growing understanding of her own emotional boundaries, defined by her frustration over never having known her mother, fear of expressing her individuality, and wariness of change—all aspects of her personality that Salma gently reveals to her. Lily’s likable voice believably discloses her maturing awareness of the limitations she’s built around herself while also offering an accurate and appreciative depiction of a unique setting: the blueberry barrens of Downeast Maine.
This sensitive coming-of-age tale compassionately explores prejudice and multiculturalism. (Fiction. 9-12)