After his maternal grandfather and guardian has a stroke, Arlo, an 11-year-old orphan, runs away from impending foster care to the home of his prickly paternal grandmother.
In this family-lost-and-found story with a mystery element and a touch of the fantastic, Arlo moves in with his grandmother Ida, who, because of a familial estrangement, is a stranger to him. Despite her crusty demeanor, Ida is not unhappy to see him, and slowly, she and Arlo forge a connection. Ida is the best realized character in the book, more empathetic than her practical and resourceful grandchild, and the pain she tries to conceal under her hardened exterior is palpable. Although the main thrust of the tale involves the making of a family, a second story thread concerns Ida’s home. A mysterious man is anxious to buy it—why? How Arlo and his new friend Maywood thwart the buyer, who turns out to be an art thief, rounds out the tale; although this plotline is intriguing and moderately suspenseful, it requires a lengthy setup, and the embedded supernatural element seems tacked on, giving the material a lumpy feel.
Still, patient readers will root for this youngster as he works to create a place he can call home. (Fiction. 8-12)