OUT OF THE BOX by Michelle Mulder


Age Range: 9 - 12
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While visiting her mother’s older sister, Jeanette, in Victoria, British Columbia, 13-year-old Ellie confronts the uncomfortable truth that her mother is emotionally abusive. Shy and awkward, Ellie is expected to mediate during her parents’ constant fighting. To placate them, Ellie forgoes studying tango music and instead reluctantly learns classical violin. An unexpected reprieve comes when Ellie is allowed to stay in Vancouver for the whole summer with Aunt Jeanette, who is recovering from the death of her partner, Alison. While there, Jeanette gives Ellie some much-needed support to help her stand up to her emotionally dependent mother. An element of mystery is added when, in the process of cleaning out Jeanette’s basement, Ellie finds a bandoneón, an Argentine accordion. Hidden inside the instrument's case is an envelope containing clues that will lead to uncovering the identity of its original owner. Still, the main focus of the story is Ellie’s troubled relationship with her mother. Never heavy-handed, Ellie’s frank narration explores her feelings of guilt, and her tale will appeal to middle-school readers. The author weaves in facts about the bandoneón, its use in tango music and its connection to the political unrest and attendant atrocities in Argentina between 1976 and 1983. It's an earnest effort, but the shifting between the two plots is awkward at times. Ultimately, it's entertaining enough but lacking in tension. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-55469-328-3
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Orca
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2011


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