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Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2012
Material: hard cover
Summary: Naomi Deane (12), our narrator, lives with guardians Joe and Nula. Naomi and best friend Lizzie Scatterding, also an orphan, live in Blackbird Tree, USA. On her way to the creek to hunt for clay, Naomi is "crushed" by a body that falls out of a tree. At the same time they are trying to figure out what a Finn is and if its alive, sisters Sybil and Nula are in Rook's Orchard, Ireland, plotting a murder! Lo and behold Finn - and his friend Angle Doodle - have arrived in Blackbird Tree from Rook's Orchard. How could that be? This as not the quiet, normal summer Naomi had planned. What's up with all these unexpected events? This middle grade novel is part mystery, part folktale, and part ghost story, with plenty of humor, too.
Type of Reading: bedtime story, independent reading, read aloud book
Recommended Age: read together: 9 to 13; read yourself: 10 and Up
Interest Level: 9 to 12
Reading Level: 4.3
Young Reader Reaction: Review pending.
Adult Reader Reaction: Lizzie and Naomi are wonderful, with lyrical (almost poetic) voices. It took a bit to get into the stories shifting between Blackbird Tree and Rook's Orchard, but they slowly came together and the "why" went away. Although the story is fresh and original, the folktale / ghost story elements make it comfortable ... as does the humor! The short chapters add to the fun of reading this in smaller bits because it allowed the vividness of Creech's storytelling to sink in and to think up questions about what just happened.
Pros: Readers who love vivid imagery and quirky characters will enjoy unexpected moments of fun!
Cons: The author does a great job with introducing characters slowly and not all at once. However, the number of characters and shifting stories could make the book confusing for some readers or listeners.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow. This is an enjoyable story, and you could easily read it two or three times to find some of the clues you may have missed.
Educational Themes: Two ideas come instantly to mind: building "family" or character trees; and drawing a map of the two towns (Blackbird Tree and Rook's Orchard). With older readers, there are opportunities to pull out legends, folktales, or other stories that appear through the plot.
Notes: The publisher donated a copy of this book knowing that we would consider it for review and provide an independent, unbiased profile. This book will be given to a nonprofit to help readers in need.
Literary Categories: Fiction - family, ghost story, friendship, fables and folklore, adoption, cultures and tradition, mystery, humor, multicultural, middle grade
Date(s) Reviewed: December 2015
Other Reviews: See Critics' Reviews and reader feedback at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.