Tracing Stars by Erin E. Moulton
Indie Lee Chickory is heading to her last day of school where she really doesn’t fit in. Her older sister Bebe fits in perfectly, dresses like the others, and never seems to smell like rotting fish like Indie does. That’s what she gets for feeding Monty, her golden lobster, before coming to school. So whenever Indie does something that draws attention to herself, Bebe is embarrassed. When Indie accidentally carries Monty to school on that last day, she does a lot more than draw attention, she runs away from school to get Monty into the water he needs. But when they reach the sea, she loses him and he won’t return to her after the sirens from the police car go off. Now Indie has to figure out not only how to get Monty back but also how to not be so weird and not embarrass Bebe anymore. Bebe has a part in a summer musical, so she has a lot at stake. It’s up to Indie to see how normal she can be.
This is a wonderfully deep and thoughtful book for preteens that explores expectations and sisterhood. While Indie’s own plans may be to not stick out and not be unusual, readers will be delighted to find out that is not the message of the book. Instead Indie is clearly her own person and unable to fit into any mold, no matter how much she may want to. Bebe is actually the sister in crisis, the one desperate to be perfect, the one who would do almost anything to belong. The book allows readers to figure that out on their own as the book progresses.
While the book is deep, it is also a great read for summer because it has plenty of humor and action to keep things moving. The setting is clear and used throughout the story almost as its own character. The dynamics of a small tourist town, the beauty of the natural setting, and the sea herself all play into the action and the story. The addition of a theater performance and Bebe being an actor and Indie working on set construction gives the book another element that works particularly well, and also gives the book some of its most interesting characters.
This pre-teen novel about a young girl who is unique in many ways but also wants to fit in will resonate with young readers who will be buoyed by the way the story works out. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from ARC received from Philomel.