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Publisher: Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Summary: Sparrow Delaney loves the idea of a fresh start. As a sophomore at a new high school, she's anxious to make new friends and stay away from the family business. She doesn't want to be a medium (like her mom and six sisters), she wants to have a normal life. Fate - and her spirit guides - have other plans. Sparrow is learning that running away won't make things go away. Is there any chance she can cross over to become just a regular teenager? This is a coming-of-age story that offers life lessons with a dash of humor. Teens who struggle with reading will find this high interest / low readability book engaging.
Type of Reading: bedtime story, independent reading, read aloud book, remedial reader
Recommended Age: read together: 10 to 12; read yourself: 10 and up
Young Reader Reaction: The story starts out relatively slow, introducing Sparrow, her six older sisters, her mother, and her grandmother. Although each character has their own unique personality, the sudden onslaught of characters gets confusing. After a long intro (about one quarter of the book), the story speeds up and takes unexpected twists and turns, making it an entertaining and great read. The Secret Life of Sparrow Delaney is a good book for teens 11 to 16, both as a gift for a child or checking it out from the library. The book teaches several very important lessons. One, everyone is unique and special and that needs to be accepted, no matter who it is. Two, accept yourself for who you are and don’t push away any talent that you may have. And three, never, ever give up on yourself — you may not yet realize what you can accomplish.
Adult Reader Reaction: Sparrow is a wonderful character. She frets like every teenager, but she has a wonderful sense of humor and is a great storyteller. Spiritualism is just one of the threads that underlies the plot, it is not a dominant feature, as Sparrow, Jack, Luke, and the dynamics of teens dealing with adults are what drive the story. I was impressed with how the author effectively offered both perspectives on mediums and ghosts (believers and naysayers), without tipping her hand toward one side or the other.
Pros: Teens will enjoy this fast-moving, humorous look at life as a high school sophomore. This book has great potential as a high interest/low readability title.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow, at least. This is a page turner that is perfect for outside (non-homework) reading. Some middle school girls might want to come back to explore the layers and read it a couple of times.
Educational Themes: At the back of the book, the author includes a note about Lily Dale, New York, the Spiritualist community where this story is set. That is a potential avenue for exploring historical information. In a book club setting, there are plenty of themes to explore: family dynamics, peer pressure, friendships, honesty, and the loss of a parent.