An emotional opening finds young Iris playing under her mother’s coffin—a scene drawn from Barbara Stuber’s own family history—and upsetting her shoe-salesman father. Stuber says that the “combination of forces—that colossal loss and the [father’s] reprimand—shape the core longing and ache within Iris.” Sent as a teen to care for elderly Mrs. Nesbitt and her bachelor son, Iris is restored through the simple acts of dusting and solving word puzzles. Hobo “really means ‘homeward bound,’ ” Mrs. Nesbitt says, and Iris is not the only wanderer in a rural 1920s community that Stuber describes as filled with “life’s rich pageant…whether anyone speaks openly about it or not.” Loneliness, tragic deaths, illness and abuse surround her. Iris is desperately in need of “what the Nesbitts offer,” says Stuber, “the pure healing power of patience and their undivided attention.” Stuber used inspiration from paintings to shape her characters. “My original image of Iris was a composite of portraits at the art museum in Kansas City,” she says. “I used their footwear as a vehicle to reflect their personalities and values…I think a great story should ring true from any reader’s perspective.” Crossing the Tracks rings clear.

For a complete list of the historical novels that are among Kirkus’ Best of 2010 for teens, click here.

Pub info:

Crossing the Tracks

Barbara Stuber

McElderry / July / 9781416997030 / $16.99 / ages 13 & up