by Kevin Henkes

Alice is full of expectation as she and her parents begin their annual spring trip... read more

Alice is full of expectation as she and her parents begin their annual spring trip at the Florida coast—she’s looking forward to celebrating her tenth birthday surrounded by the people she’s always thought of as family. But from the moment they arrive, some things go wrong. It turns out the other family with kids that usually comes can’t make it. Then a family friend gets stuck in New York. Mr. Barden, an elderly man with a nearby cabin, seems confused at times and says things to Alice that feel hurtful. And her mom’s best friend, Kate—who always comes alone—arrives with a male companion and his young daughter, Mallory. The little girl is a challenge; her mother has left, and Mallory’s sadness and uncertainty make for difficult and unpredictable behavior. Even as Alice continues to look forward to the big change of turning ten, these myriad small changes are unsettling. Quiet moments reveal as much as those of high drama in Kevin Henkes’s masterful novel, with the thoughtful and particular way Alice sees the world illuminating how important “small” things so often are in the life of a child, for whom they are not small at all. Throughout the week, Alice is on the watch for a rare junonia shell. Accepting that reality won’t always fit her idea of perfection—with the shell, and with life—but that things just might turn out okay regardless, is one of many revelations in this story that superbly conveys the emotional landscape of childhood. (Ages 8–11)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2012

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