Can an oft-rejected orphan settle into the stable, loving home of a pair of gentle sisters who are retired missionaries to Africa?
Twelve-year-old Wilma Sue’s been bounced from home to home in her short life. Now it’s hard for her to believe she even deserves a real home. In a winsomely attractive first-person narration, she relates her growing wonder with Ruth, a social activist, and Naomi, who bakes cakes that are somehow infused with magic. Naomi brings the cakes to deserving members of their tightknit community, each confection perfectly matched to its needy recipient. The sisters also keep chickens that move from being Wilma Sue’s responsibility to her calling. Penny, a girl who lives just down the street seems like the only obstruction to happiness. In many ways, she is more damaged than Wilma Sue, struggling to satisfy her widowed mother’s unmet needs, an impossible task. Magnin maintains a delicate balance between a fablelike fantasy and reality fiction as Wilma Sue gradually discovers that not only is she eminently worthy of love, but that she can also help the people around her by loving them. Wilma’s captivating, clever language and short declarative sentences perfectly exemplify her wary but reverential view of the world.
Although the message is sometimes spelled out instead of implied, it’s a minor flaw in this worthy, heartwarming effort. (Fantasy. 10-15)