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by MJ Auch

Age Range: 10 - 14

Pub Date: May 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-8050-7531-3
Publisher: Henry Holt

Thirteen-year-old Grady Flood and his drop-dead gorgeous mother Lila have been on the move ever since he was six and his father, a mechanic, was crushed under a car. Escaping yet another intolerable situation, they begin their next adventure when their beat-up car breaks down in rural Pennsylvania. Mother and son find themselves working for the cantankerous elderly Charlie Fernwald, a bona fide “wing nut,” a widowed purple martin fanatic obsessed with the birds’ seasonal arrivals. At first, the ever-wary Grady dismisses Charlie as “crazy as a stinkbug on a hot sidewalk,” but the old man grows on him, as do his beloved birds. Charlie sees Grady’s potential and nurtures the smart but long-neglected boy in a way that Lila can’t. Watching Grady blossom—and struggle—under the tutelage of his unlikely teacher is emotionally tumultuous but ultimately heartwarming. Young readers may not become as enamored with the details of purple martin life as Grady and Charlie, but the story of a boy who finally finds a place to call home should resonate deeply. (Fiction. 10-14)