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LEO AND THE LESSER LION by Sandra Forrester


by Sandra Forrester

Pub Date: Aug. 11th, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-375-85616-7
Publisher: Knopf

A Depression-era tale set in tiny Lenore, Ala., may not have immediate or obvious appeal. But Forrester creates a compelling account of how hardship can be overcome and grief survived, however grudging and reluctant our efforts may be. Mary Bayliss Pettigrew, just turned 12, is the engaging narrator, and her first-person voice captures readers’ interest immediately with an account of her near-death by drowning. The plot then circles back to the events that led to her accident (and the death of her beloved older brother). The bulk of the book details the following year and the family’s efforts to cope with change as they mourn the loss of Leo and welcome (or not) two destitute children into their midst. Bayliss’s unlikely desire to become a nun, her prickly relationship with her outspoken grandmother and the believable evolution of her relationship with Gwen and Isabel, the sisters her family has taken in, all ring true. Dialogue is particularly effective, creating a strong sense of time and place without exaggeration or condescension. Solid and satisfying. (Historical fiction. 9-12)