Jane Pengilly has a lot on her plate: a dad in rehab, her badly burned hand, and a police officer/foster mom whose home is a most unusual community.
Jane, 11, figures she can handle just about anything for the 12 days it will take Pop to clear alcohol rehab—and her fourth stint in foster care. While Officer D isn’t bad as foster moms go, there’s no TV in the rustic cabin or anywhere else at Three Boulders, a community of 56 adults and children in the Oregon woods. The food’s terrific, though Jane would still rather be longboarding with Pop. She bonds with Gertie Biggs, also 11, who tells her the boulders represent redemption, forgiveness, and community. If so, why are the property’s nonagenarian owner and adult residents keeping secrets? No fan of school, Jane’s intrigued by this one, which features nature study and garden maintenance, but reuniting with Pop remains her priority. Ignoring her worsening injury, assertive Jane persuades Gertie, 12-year-old Loam, and his tiny, mute, artistic 15-year-old sister, Dandy, to help her get to Pop. Some plot elements feel only just sketched-out, and the swift resolution leaves vital threads dangling. This debut’s strength is its sympathetic, believable child characters—especially stubborn, likable Jane, an original who grounds and recenters the story when it threatens to strain credulity. The book adheres to the white default.
Celebrating collective along with individual action, this upbeat tale portrays a hero’s journey that takes a community to complete. (Fiction. 8-12)