Moonpenny Island by Tricia Springstubb
The author of What Happened on Fox Street returns with a beautiful story set on a little island in a large lake. Flor loves her island home, loves being able to ride her bicycle everywhere, loves that her best friend is the only other person in her grade at school, and loves that she knows all of the people who live there year round. But things start to change that Flor has no way to control. Her best friend is sent off the island to attend a different school, leaving Flor the only person in sixth grade. Flor’s mother leaves to take care of her sick grandmother, and with her parents always fighting, maybe she won’t be back. Even her very responsible older sister is hiding something from Flor. Flor has to figure out how to live in this new island landscape where everything is changing around her. But in change there is also opportunity, perhaps a new friend (or two) and also seeing things for what they actually are.
Springstubb writes a love letter to her island setting. She imbues each bike ride of Flor’s with a beauty and a celebration of this small island and its nature. Her writing sparkles like sun on the water as she picks unique metaphors to show both her characters emotions and the setting. Here is one of my favorite examples: “Her heart’s a circus, with trapezes and tightropes and people shooting out of cannons but no nets – someone forgot the nets.” Springstubb also shows emotions rather than telling about them. Flor’s emotions come out in the way she digs her toes in sand, how she pedals her bicycle and through what she notices in the island itself.
Flor is a great young protagonist. She reads like an eleven year old, desperate to hold her family and friends together. She has a youthful and frenzied love of her island, something that readers can see may change in the future but it is her connection to this place that makes this book work so beautifully. She is fiercely protective of her siblings, throwing herself in to defend and protect them even as she proves that she has no understanding of teen love, something refreshing in a young protagonist.
Strong written, this book is beautiful, deep and rich just like its island setting. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and Balzer + Bray.