Eleven-year-old Nell is frustrated and unhappy. A loner, she’s miserable in the busy life her mother has crafted for her.
Now her mom is leaving her for a long holiday with her aunt Liv, who works a small farm. She secretly takes with her a case full of the parts of an almost-magical toy merry-go-round her long-gone father created, the only bit of him not expunged from their house. Right after her arrival, a strange girl—Angel—on a large horse steals the case. Nell decides the only way to get it back is to find her. But Angel has a reputation for lying and stealing, so when a nanny goat and a few other things—including a horse—go missing, she’s blamed. Rita, Liv’s recently widowed and grieving neighbor, holds keys to the mystery of Angel’s background, information that is disclosed at a deliberate pace that heightens the sense of mystery and enhances the gradual reveal. Only Angel and Nell together have the power to put the many problems right, if they can find a way to cooperate. Although Nell’s voice sometimes feels a bit too adult for her age, it’s a minor flaw.
As in A Dog Called Homeless (2012), Lean effortlessly stitches a moving tale right to the very edge of fantasy without ever tearing the satisfying believability of her story. (Fiction. 10-14)