Filled with little moments of quiet wisdom and gentle humor, Newbery winner MacLachlan’s story about family love soars.
Lucy is the only member of her family who cannot sing. Everyone else—her father, her mother, and her younger sister, Grace—sings on pitch. Even her toddler brother, Teddy, who does not yet talk, sings—although only Lucy knows this, as Teddy sings to her secretly each night. But while Lucy cannot sing (she thinks), she is planning to be a poet, and as she and her family journey across the Minnesota prairie in an old Volkswagen bus and arrive at her aunt’s home on the Red River in North Dakota, she composes poems, hoping to write one for her father that is “as beautiful as a cow.” (Her father loves cows.) The story, told in first person by Lucy, is ostensibly simple. But in the hands of MacLachlan, simple becomes sparely elegant, and the narrative unfolds to reveal a world of secrets, strengths, fears, and aspirations both relinquished and recovered, with a frisson of tension that rises as the Red River floods. The climax, when it comes, is less of a nail-biter and more of a warm, cozy blanket of love and support—and readers won’t mind one bit.
A story that never cloys, succeeding on all levels. (Fiction. 6-10)