A seventh-grader in 1999 wonders when her real life will start—this spring break, she’ll find out.
Her friend Natalie is spending a year in France, while Amelia’s widowed, emotionally distant father won’t even take her to Florida for one week! Love, support, and the excellent baking of their housekeeper, Mrs. O’Brien, a neighbor in her 70s, partly reconcile Amelia to staying home in Madison, Wisconsin, where at least she’ll have time for creating ceramic animals at Louise’s clay studio. At first Amelia’s dismayed to find a strange boy there—it’s Louise’s nephew, Casey, visiting while his parents go on a retreat, hoping to save their failing marriage. Casey confesses that his campaign to keep them together isn’t going well. Amelia can relate. Her mother died when Amelia was 2; with her father seldom home and Natalie in France, she feels unsettled and adrift. Active imaginations and shared creativity strengthen the preteens’ bond. Spotting a woman who resembles Amelia, Casey suggests she could be her mother, possibly reborn. Pursuing this intriguing idea spawns unexpected developments that spur Amelia’s emotional growth (reflected in the Emily Dickinson poem quoted in the title). Captured on the threshold of puberty’s tumultuous changes, Amelia and Casey quiver with hope and longing. Like a Chinese brush painting made of words, this short novel distills the slow-building impatience of early adolescence down to its essence—not much happens, yet everything does. The primary cast presents white.
Spare, luminous, lovely. (Historical fiction. 8-12)