Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Sparrow Road by Sheila O'Connor
When Raine O'Rourke finds out her mother has signed her up for a summer at a ramshackle old mansion called Sparrow Road, she's desperate to escape. Raine can hardly believe that she's being forced to give up a summer with her beloved Grandpa Mac at his store in Milwaukee to spend long days in a mysterious country mansion while her mom cooks and cleans for a bunch of live-in artists. Even worse, the artists demand silence which means, no TV, no radio, no talking. What good could come of a summer spent like that? More good than Raine could ever have expected, as it turns out.
You can see, taste, and feel O'Connor's idyllic country summer at Sparrow Road. The long, silent days filled with mysteries and dreams stretch out like magic luring readers into Raine's journey of imagination and self-discovery. The surreal, almost dreamlike quality of a summer at Sparrow Road balances a story filled with unpleasant truths about lives lived at a former orphanage and Raine's own troubled past.
Let's just get to the point, though. I loved Sparrow Road. It's not surprising that you can often expect that the younger an audience a book is aimed at the more things like character development get neglected in favor of action. Not so with Sparrow Road. These characters leap off the page. Raine is a vivid protagonist coming to terms with family secrets. Her mother is a steady presence who wants to do the right thing but is still working out just what that is. The artists aren't the dark and broody sort, but the sort that burst off the page with their uniqueness and the joy they find in the act of creating. Josie, Diego, and even slightly loopy Lillian all do their part showing Raine how to get in touch with the art that's inside of her.
Even though O'Connor doesn't scrimp on her characters, there is still plenty of action to keep the pages turning as mysteries unfold and still other characters reveal themselves to be more than they seem. O'Connor skillfully weaves clues into her story keeping readers hungry for more. Sparrow Road is, above all, a satisfying read, filled with love and committed to revealing the ghosts of the past. It is the kind of book I would have loved as a kid and a book that I love now, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to both the young and the young at heart.
Sparrow Road hits shelves May 12!
(Thanks to Stacey at Penguin Young Readers Group for the review copy.)