Every year for the past five years since his mother's death, 10-year-old Blaze has buried an imaginary friend beneath a stone marker on a hill near his house. Every July he creates a new friend, hoping that this time his make-believe companion will help him overcome his phobias--fears that have plagued him since he lost his mother to cancer. One day Blaze discovers that someone has used his stone grave markers to spell out his mother's name, "Reena." Feeling frightened and spooked, he cannot fathom who or what could have written this tormenting word.
Unbeknownst to Blaze, young Joselle Stark has recently moved into her grandmother's nearby farmhouse after being abandoned by her self-centered mother. When Joselle hears about Reena's death, she feels darkly compelled to write disturbing messages to Blaze, using the stones she finds on the hill between them. In this book, as in his others, Kevin Henkes eloquently builds sympathy for the perpetrator as well as the victim, helping young readers understand the traumas and insecurities that cause people to lie and hurt others. When Joselle and Blaze eventually meet and become friends, Joselle hides the truth about the words she once wrote in stone. But when the lie is revealed, Henkes does not create a swift or easy resolution. Instead he becomes more graceful and paced in his writing--allowing the reader to savor the intricacies of betrayal, rejection, and reconciliation. ALA Notable Book, School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, Publishers Weekly Best Book, Horn Book Fanfare Honor List. (Ages 10 and older) --Gail Hudson
From Publishers Weekly
In this stirring contemporary novel set in rural Wisconsin, Henkes ( Chrysanthemum ; The Zebra Wall ) paints a poignant picture of two lonely children whose paths cross one summer. First introduced is shy, red-headed Blaze, who has recently lost his mother to cancer. Now living with his grandmother and his artist father, the nine-year-old has trouble admitting his fears to anyone except his imaginary friends--until he meets Joselle, an outspoken, spellbinding girl who is staying on the other side of the hill with her Grandma Floy. Alternately showing the points of view of Blaze and Joselle, the book traces the meshing of two private worlds where ordinary objects--keys, spoons, stones, toy animals--carry special meaning. The fragile kinship that grows between the youngsters is threatened by an act of betrayal, yet, ultimately, deep-seated compassion and understanding help mend broken trusts. This story, offering an exceptionally sensitive and accurate portrayal of isolation, echoes feelings and themes found in Brock Cole's The Goats. Henkes, however, goes further in demonstrating the process of emotional healing--and acceptance of painful truths--that allows fear and loneliness to dissipate. His vivid characterizations and profound symbolism are sure to linger in readers' minds. Ages 10-up.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.