Foxlee’s (A Most Magical Girl, 2016, etc.) latest is true to its title.
Lenny Spink’s little brother, Davey, isn’t little. At 5 ½, he’s taller than Lenny, a third-grader—and he won’t stop growing. Her intuitive mother, “made almost entirely out of worries and magic” since her father abandoned them, is rapidly unraveling into pure worry. But when their mother wins them a set of Burrell’s Build-It-at-Home Encyclopedia, the siblings build fantastic futures as they learn about farting beetles, golden eagles, and Canada’s Great Bear Lake. From 1974 to 1977, their library grows, and Davey’s rare tumors worsen. Almost universally adored—and unbelievably cheerful through growing pains, excruciating headaches, and blindness—Davey is primarily a plot device, prompting others’ growth and kindness. The growing pains at the book’s heart are Lenny’s. Prickly, perceptive, and sympathetic, she eloquently narrates her conflicted longing for her father and the metamorphoses in her close bond with Davey. Lenny’s anger and “shame of being ashamed” of Davey will resonate with siblings of sick kids, and the rocky but fierce love between Lenny and her mother is heartening. Eclectic secondary characters provide support, including a boy with a birthmark and a stutter; Lenny’s convention-defying best friend; and a doting Hungarian babysitter. Lenny and her family and friends are white; her Ohio neighborhood is somewhat diverse.
Lyrical and emotionally complex, this coming-of-age tale explores “all the giant things and all the great things” about family and growing up—unfortunately, it’s done via the “angelic sick kid” trope. (Historical fiction. 9-12)