From School Library Journal
Grade 6-8–The yearly summer pleasures of a Michigan cottage away from the stress of school, work, and city life are interrupted in 1942 for 14-year-old Belle and her family. Wartime has required her parents to stay behind with her father supervising the production of warplanes and her mother returning to her medical practice, covering for male doctors leaving for the army and navy. Belle and her three siblings return to their grandparents' cottage and are joined by their 15-year-old cousin, Carrie, who has been raised, following her mother's death, in Paris and Washington, DC, and whose father is in war-besieged Europe. Belle anticipates much-needed friendship and camaraderie, yet Carrie arrives with a sophisticated and arrogant demeanor, upsetting the normally simple lifestyle of her family. Whelan masterfully paints a tension-filled story of two opposite worlds colliding and clashing with one another through her well-developed principal characters. Belle's first-person narrative expresses her mixed feelings, from excitement about the arrival of a new relative to bewildered disappointment in and anger toward her unappreciative, snobby cousin. When Carrie's father is killed in a bomb raid in London, the entire family must not only come to terms with his death, but also with the mutual adjustment that permanently living with their orphaned cousin will require. Whelan aptly combines themes of war, death, loss, adjustment, and coming of age through her symbolic references of both personal and global warfare. A worthy, discussable page-turner.–Rita Soltan, Youth Services Consultant, West Bloomfield, MI
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Gr. 6-9. It's the summer after bombs dropped on Pearl Harbor, but the war seems far away on Lake Huron's tiny Turtle Island, where 14-year-old Mirabelle's family spends the summer. This year, with her parents working in Detroit, Belle and her siblings look forward to having their grandparents, and their island, all to themselves: "We never ran out of ideas. We were never bored." Then news comes that Belle's 15-year-old cousin, Carrie, will join them. From Carrie's first moments on the island, when she steps from the motorboat in high heels, Belle realizes that her cousin, while family, is a complete stranger. Raised in Paris, cosmopolitan Carrie is disdainful of the island's simple lifestyle, and her scornful displeasure acutely unsettles the whole family. Writing in Belle's authentic voice, Whelan tells a moving story, filled with smoothly inserted details, that echoes summertime's leisurely pace and firmly establishes the time and place. And in Belle, readers will easily recognize their own private struggles to sculpt an identity amid the chaos of family changes. Gillian EngbergCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved