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A Finders-Keepers Place Hardcover – October 12, 2010
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From School Library Journal
Grade 4–7—In a small town in the 1970s, 11-year-old Esther Page feels the weight of the world on her shoulders. Her mother, Valley, is neglectful and abusive to her and her eight-year-old sister, Ruth, because of untreated manic depression. When Esther wakes up to see Ruth's empty bed, she knows she must find her. With Valley passed out, Esther finds a clue in the pink puddles of ice cream in the kitchen from groceries never put away and realizes that her mother must have left her sister at the grocery store. She finds Ruth curled up on a shelf, head resting on a package of toilet paper. The girls scramble through a Dumpster for food, forage in a Goodwill bin for school clothes, and do their best to avoid their mother when she is "out of sorts." Desperate for help, they search the churches in town for Ezekiel, their preacher father, who left when they were little. Where he is becomes clear as the plot, with its adept foreshadowing, unfolds. Readers may feel anger and frustration because of the lack of adult intervention as well as at the absence of closure at the end of an emotional and well-developed buildup to an all-too-common social situation.—D. Maria LaRocco, Cuyahoga Public Library, Strongsville, OH
(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
The first riveting pages let readers know that some fifth-graders have worries beyond homework and mean classmates. Eleven-year-old Esther awakens one morning to find her eight-year-old sister Ruth’s bed untouched and Valley, their mother, deep in a medication-induced slumber. Esther knows that it’s up to her to figure out where Valley left Ruth, find her, and bring her home. When she’s not tying herself in knots to hold her family together, Esther is trying to find the father she barely remembers, hoping that he can save them before their many secrets are discovered and their fragile home life falls apart. Esther responds to nearly insurmountable family problems with determination, resilience, and wily intelligence. The author of Also Known as Harper (2009), Leal creates strong, individual characters and a convincing narrative of a family in disarray. A good choice for readers drawn to Leslie Connor’s Waiting for Normal (2008) or Rose Kent’s Rocky Road (2010). Grades 4-6. --Carolyn Phelan