With her mother off on a lunar mission—a last-ditch treatment for leukemia—Ella is left circling like astronaut Michael Collins awaiting the hoped-for reunion. She and her mom have always admired Collins’ bravery, and it turns out the analogy has personal resonance.
When no one else is able to take Ella, she is sent to stay with GM (Grandmother/General Major), a woman Ella has never met. Or has she? The family history is as difficult to navigate as GM’s peacock-ridden, jam-packed hacienda. At "Broken Family Camp," Ella discovers that her grandfather was an astronomer who had been inspired by Kepler’s work and met Collins. Grandfather’s accidental death many years earlier is still keenly felt by GM, so when their valuable copy of Kepler’s Dream is stolen, Ella resolves to find the thief. Every detail is relevant in this tightly plotted debut peopled with an unforgettable cast of characters. More family drama than mystery, the story is told in Ella’s voice—compassionate, clever, preadolescent-snarky—allowing Bell to treat weighty issues with a light touch. Ella learns how blame can tear a family apart and how forgiveness and the things of which dreams are made can heal. The credibly realistic resolution leaves Ella firmly grounded with deepened family ties, a new friend and some hard-won horseback-riding skills.
Utterly satisfying. (Fiction. 10-14)