Left in a Minnesota cabin when their grandfather is hospitalized with encephalitis, 13-year-old Pride and her younger siblings struggle to be self-reliant, but after a bus trip to Duluth to see him, they realize they will have to seek and accept help.
When their grandfather went off to see the doctor, the orphaned Star family—Pride, Nightingale and Baby—had just become accustomed to life with reclusive Old Finn, so different from their commune in New Mexico. They knew he wouldn’t want anyone to learn they were on their own. To make money for food, they sell crafts and pony rides to tourists, attracting unwanted attention. Against the backdrop of the last few days of Nixon’s administration in 1974, narrator Pride compares her own need to lie to Nixon’s self-justification even as Nightingale insists on honesty. Unusually, this family survival story is also a story of love between two older adults. Through letters Pride reads, readers learn that before he became a surrogate parent, her grandfather loved someone named Justine. Courageous and resourceful, the children track her down. More realistic than many children-on-their-own adventures, the resolution may strain adult credulity. Compelling character development (in adults as well as children) and authentic language fitting the setting add to the strength of this story.
Family loyalty, stubbornness and love in an implausible but totally satisfying blend. (Historical fiction. 10-14)