An honest look at faith and love.


Twelve-year-old River worries that her missing parents might not know where to find her when she and her grandmother move away from their home, but it has been 10 years, and her grandmother is determined to move forward, leaving old memories and pain behind.

Their new life quickly proves her grandmother’s sentiment that new things are not necessarily better or worse, just different. River meets Billy, a good-hearted son of a local preacher, who teaches her about love, forgiveness, and kindness all while introducing her to the surprising world of birds. River’s grandmother is equally inspired by their relocation, giving up smoking, starting physical therapy, and agreeing to attend church. Everything seems idyllic in Birdsong, West Virginia. But when tragedy strikes, River and her grandmother witness firsthand what true love and forgiveness look like. River’s calm strength and openness in the face of her difficult life make her a genuine heroine. And her kooky grandmother’s colloquialisms, energy, and obvious love add a dose of humor. While there are occasional moments of overearnestness, the overall effect is successful, a genuine portrayal of a young girl following a life of faith in a world marred with tragedy.

An honest look at faith and love. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7369-6461-6

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Harvest House

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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Sweet and memorable.


A middle schooler discovers that her prickly, estranged grandmother has a soft spot.

Catarina Arden-Blume’s father has not spoken to his mother ever since she objected to his marrying a Christian. He rejects organized religion, though Cat’s mom encourages her daughter to explore her Jewish heritage. And whether Cat feels awkward about it or not, she’s about to be confronted with it, because she’s been invited to her father’s hometown of Baton Rouge this summer, where she’ll meet her grandmother for the first time. Safta is a little scary, and Cat’s one-year-older (but far more worldly) cousin, Lexie, is more interested in sneaking around with her boyfriend than she is in hanging out. But adult discipline wins out, and soon the two cousins are working at Gerta’s, the family department store, a behemoth in size and local significance. When Cat investigates a storeroom Safta keeps locked, she discovers a trove of information that may explain why German-born Safta doesn’t like to talk about the past—and why the store’s employees so love and respect a woman Cat has only known to be intolerant. Narrated as a letter to Safta, this thoughtful story is at times melancholy and at times delightfully deadpan, more focused on the intergenerational relationship than teaching about the Shoah. Despite the tantalizing promise of the title, so few pages are devoted to the uncovered secret that its significance is easy to miss and the story could be read as a more general lesson on respecting elders.

Sweet and memorable. (author's note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-20364-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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A wise if occasionally saccharine look at common childhood drama.


From the Baxter Family Children series , Vol. 1

When their parents announce that they are moving from their home in Michigan to Indiana, the five Baxter children react to the change in different ways.

Brooke, the oldest, is quietly confident in the decision. Eight-year-old Erin is fearful, but 6-year-old Luke is too young to fully understand. Eleven-year-old Kari is calm and focused, but 10-year-old Ashley feels as though her world is going to pieces. When new friendships cause Ashley to feel left out and an offhand remark makes her feel flighty and immature, she decides to overhaul her life. She gives up art and soccer, vowing to be more studious, like her sisters. But she soon realizes that she is better off just being who God made her to be. With this children’s novel, Kingsbury and co-author Russell go back in time to focus on the childhoods of some of her favorite characters from her popular series for adults. In the Baxter family, trouble is met with grace, kindness, and prayer. The admonition that “your very best friends are the ones around the dinner table each night” is more than wishful thinking here. Jealousy, sadness, and first crushes are all handled with wisdom and God’s word. However, readers with less-than-idyllic lives might not feel they can simply “choose to be happy,” as God advises Ashley. While God is frequently discussed, the emphasis is more on moral character and kindness. The Baxters are white and the time period unclear, although working back from the books for adults, it is probably the 1970s or ’80s.

A wise if occasionally saccharine look at common childhood drama. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1215-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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