A girl’s irresponsible mother plans to channel the spirit of Laura Ingalls Wilder into a bestselling novel.
Charlotte, age 12, has heard this sort of thing before. Along with Freddy, her hearing-impaired twin, and Rose, her perennially sunny 11-year-old half sister, she’s gotten used to Mom’s perpetual search for greener pastures. Only they’ve always lived in warmer places, and Mom’s always had a job—now they’re in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, the prairie icon’s former hometown, and Mom’s counting on their meager savings lasting until she can finish her book. (Charlotte and family are white; their landlords, who are important characters, are Latinx, and many of Charlotte’s classmates are Hmong.) Charlotte knows how to survive: be average. But here, for the first time, her twin becomes popular in his own right. Her teacher refuses to accept mediocrity, and she’s even drawn into volunteering at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum. Unaccountably, it’s her mother who seems to be struggling—ready to give up and move them again just when Charlotte has finally found a sense of home. Then the museum is vandalized, Charlotte is blamed—and the resulting fallout teaches her to recognize the truth about herself, her family, and her friends. Tougas maintains Charlotte’s first-person point of view in a way that allows readers, like Charlotte herself, to gradually realize where Charlotte’s perceptions have been inaccurate or unfair. Strong characters and fast plotting propel readers to a sweet, realistic end that provides hope and a sense of stability—at least for the present time.
Lovely. (Fiction. 8-12)