The first day of summer holds such promise. For 12-year-old Raine O’Rourke that includes stacking shelves at Grandpa Mac’s store, playing chess with Grandpa’s best friend and eating all the popsicles and candy she wants. That’s how Raine expects to spend this summer too. Instead, she finds herself far from Milwaukee. All of a sudden, her mom decides to take a summer job as a cook at an old mansion in the country. There goes Raine’s hope for a fun summer.
Sparrow Road seems to be a summer camp, of sorts, for adults who want to get away from their regular jobs to concentrate on creative projects. Lillian writes poetry. Josie makes assorted things out of fabric scraps. Diego likes to use odds and ends in his artwork and Eleanor is a writer. As soon as they arrive at Sparrow Road, the owner sternly warns Raine not to disturb anyone. Viktor definitely did not make her feel welcome.
Raine knows her mom’s hiding something. Why are they really at Sparrow Road? Raine is determined to find the truth. As the days pass, she finds more questions than answers. There are so many mysteries at Sparrow Road. When the biggest secret comes out it will change Raine’s life forever.
O’Connor’s use of descriptive language brings Raine’s world alive. The reader can smell the fish in the lake, the rotten apples in the breeze and the musty blankets in the attic. There is adventure in the air. Her characters are authentic. Each one brings an essential ingredient to aid Raine on her journey. Her story reminds me of a fragrance – Sweet Honesty. It was my favorite at Raine’s age. Sparrow Road is sweet, honest and full of hope. It’s a perfect read for the first day of summer.
Winner of the 2012 International Reading Association Award for Intermediate Fiction
Sparrow Road News 2012 Midwest Booksellers Choice Awards Finalist!
2011 Voya Best Book
2011 Booklist Best Book
2011 Chicago Public Library Best of the Best
2012 Bank Street Best Books
2011 Pennsylvania School Librarians Assoc. Best
From the publisher:
It’s the summer before seventh grade, and twelve-year- old Raine O’Rourke’s mother suddenly takes a job hours from home at mysterious Sparrow Road- a creepy, dilapidated mansion that houses an eccentric group of artists. As Raine tries to make sense of her new surroundings, she forges friendships with a cast of quirky characters including the outrageous and funky Josie.
Together, Raine and Josie decide to solve the mysteries of Sparrow Road-from its haunting history as an orphanage to the secrets of its silent, brooding owner, Viktor. But it’s an unexpected secret from Raine’s own life that changes her forever.
An affecting and beautifully written story of family and forgiveness, Sparrow Road is an incredible gift.
Praise for Sparrow Road:
Kirkus Starred Review: “Sparrow Road…the crumbling country estate, a former orphanage, is a place readers will want to explore. It is suffused with a sense of longing, the same wistful atmosphere surrounding the characters in this beautifully written novel, with its leisurely revelation of secrets and sad events of the past…. Readers finding themselves in this quiet world will find plenty of space to imagine and dream for themselves.” — Kirkus Reviews
Booklist Starred Review: “That O’Connor can write a book with essentially only one young character and have the result be a timeless piece of middle-grade fiction is a tribute to her understanding that emotions are universal, no matter how old we are, and that art is a balm that has the ability to soothe all wounds. A special book”. — Ilene Cooper
Age Range: 10 and up
Grade Level: 5 and up
Lexile Measure: 530L (What’s this?)
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (May 12, 2011)
This review was originally published on my old blog and on Amazon on June 7, 2011.