Impetuous, mercurial Delaware Pattison, stuttering Brud and silent, lonely Ferris find an intertwined salvation.
Delly, an impulsive middle child loved by her parents and tagalong young brother, meets life on her own terms and with such self-centered focus that she bends language to suit and reflect her. A ride home in Officer Tibbetts’ squad car is a “Dellylivery”; “What the glub?” Delly exclaims, citing her “nocussictionary”; she anticipates “surpresents” especially for her; Ferris’ treehouse is a “hideawaysis.” (An appended glossary—Dellyictionary—offers 40 of these portmanteaux). Brud longs to shoot baskets like Ferris, a girl so silent and thin that both he and Delly think she’s a boy. Ferris fascinates Delly with her solitude and ability to connect with wild creatures and Brud with her miraculous basketball skills. Delly’s teachers, though aware of Ferris’ elective mutism and fear of being touched, don’t question the girl’s safety at home. But Delly notices scars on Ferris’s back and gets a bad feeling about Ferris’ normal-seeming father. There’s a lot going on, and Delly’s quirky language occasionally threatens to obscure the plot. Ferris is rescued, at least temporarily, but young readers may be left wondering whether adults are truly capable of protecting them.
Plenty of action and dialogue carry this uneven story along. (Fiction. 9-12)