Today's fiction title is one of the best mid-grade books I have read in a long time. It is not only beautifully written, but it is also full of a very special brand of wisdom that would benefit all readers above the age of 8 or 9.
Illustrated by Heather Ross
For ages 9 to 12
HarperCollins, 2010, 978-0-06-198636-9
As far as Mo Wren is concerned, Fox Street is the best place in the world to live. Everything she cares about is here, and she is of the opinion that “your every need could be satisfied on Fox Street.” In her little neighborhood, there are people who care about her and who watch over her, and there is an area called the Green Kingdom where The Den is located. Mo has lived here on Fox Street from the moment she came into the world, and she plans on continuing to stay here. The only thing that is missing on Fox Street are foxes and girls
Thankfully, every summer Mo’s best friend Mercedes comes to visit, so at least for a while there is a girl around. Merce’s grandmother Da lives on Fox Street, and Mo and Merce have known each other forever. Usually Mo and Merce reconnect at the beginning of summer as if they have never been apart, but this year Merce is different. She has been living with her mother’s rich new husband, and for the first time Merce does not think Fox Street is wonderful. Instead, to her, it looks “Used up.”
What should have been a perfect summer only gets worse when Mo’s father’s behavior suggests that he might be considering selling the family home so that he can open up a restaurant. For years he has been dreaming of having his own place where he can serve good food and beer. Mo cannot bear to imagine that her father would do such a thing, but perhaps it could really happen.
Then Mrs. Steinbott, the neighborhood crabby person, starts behaving very strangely. She has always ignored Da and Merce, but now she keeps asking Mo to give Merce things on her behalf. Merce, like most of the people on the street, wants nothing to do with the old lady, but something about Mrs. Steinbott’s behavior touches Mo. Somehow she gets the sense that something very important is going on. There are secrets lying just below the surface and Mo is afraid of what is going to happen when they are revealed.
Fox Street is Mo’s safe place. It is the place where all her memories live and where she can feel close to her dead mother. Da, Mrs. Petrone, the Green Kingdom, The Den, and all the other things she loves are here. She cannot stand seeing that things are starting to change, but at the same time she cannot stop change from happening.
For children experiencing changes in their lives, this book will help them to see that even painful change can turn out to be a good thing in the long run. We have to have faith, and face the future with courage, just as Mo does.
Beautifully written and with an incredibly powerful story, this is a book everyone should read.