From School Library Journal
Grade 6–8—Setting her story in rural Ireland, Parkinson develops the character of Margaret Rose Clarke through the use of first-person narrative. Mags, 12, speaks directly to readers, often explaining her use of dialogue and literary device, letting her audience in on the formation of the novel. ("I am plan-ning to be a writer when I grow up, and I am going to use this story to practice a few little phrases that might be a bit sophisticated." "I've thought a lot about intriguing openings….") Her father has recently died, causing her mother to sell their family home and move to the country. Wandering through the woods, she meets Gillian, a talented musician who has a chance to audition at the distinguished Yehudi Menuhin School of Music but who needs to find her father to ask for plane fare. Mags turns the search for Gillian's father into a mystery to be solved and attacks the problem with considerable energy. The contrast between these two characters, both missing their fathers in very different circumstances, as well as the relationships between Mags and Gillian and Mags and her mother, are artfully rendered, giving readers insight into the protagonist's heart and mind. She is smart, wise, outspoken, and not always as sure of herself as she appears on the outside. While the story has a definite ending, to which Mags adds a short chapter in an attempt to tie up all loose ends, it begs to continue.—Wendy Smith-D'Arezzo, Loyola College, Baltimore, MD
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Twelve-year-old Mags tells her story of how, while exploring the woods near her new home, she hears music and observes a girl slightly older than herself fiddling with abandon near a forester's hut. The girls become friends, and Mags soon enlists herself as lead detective in Gillian's hunt for her sort-of-missing father, whose funding she needs for an audition at a prestigious music school. (Gillian's mother has no interest in her daughter's exceptional musical skill.) Though Mags claims that her story is not like "those other realistic novels" about death, divorce, and other problems, she is not entirely credible; she's dealing with problems herself, most notably, her father. All the same, Mags is a lively narrator, secondary characters are well drawn, and the novel deals gently with friendship and sensitive family issues. Heather Booth
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