Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Like A Blue Lobster, Touch Blue Is A Rare and Beautiful Thing

(Image from Indiebound)

Maine's superstitious lobstermen know a lot about luck. They'd never curse a fishing trip by whistling aboard a boat, uttering the "d" word (drowned) at sea, or letting a redhead aboard without first counteracting his bad karma. Sticking to tried-and-true good-luck routines is the only way to ensure a successful haul. 'Course, touching blue to make your wishes come true doesn't hurt either. Eleven-year-old Tess, who's been fishing with her dad more times than she can count, knows all the tricks for avoiding bad luck and bringing on the good. And she's using them all today.

Tess, who's lived on Bethsaida her whole life, can't imagine dwelling anywhere else, but that's just what's going to happen if the island's schoolhouse shuts down. Ever since the Hamiltons moved, taking their five kids back to the mainland, the state of Maine has been threatening to close the school's doors. If it happens, Tess' mother will lose her job, obliterating the family's health insurance as well as their only reliable source of income (even with all the luck in the world, Tess' dad's lobstering is a financial gamble). The only solution will be the most unbearable thing Tess can think of: leaving the island. None of Bethsaida's residents want that, so they're solving the problem by taking in a boatload of foster children. Not only will the kids up the school's enrollment, but they'll be taken care of by good, solid island families. It's clearly a win-win situation. So why is Aaron, the 13-year-old boy living at Tess' house, so sullen and uninterested?

Maybe bringing the foster children to the island began as a ploy to save the school, but Aaron's quickly becoming important to Tess. He's not the chummy big brother she imagined or an orphan destined to become her best, bosom friend like Anne of Green Gables - he's a sulky teenager, hurt by his mother's abandonment. Still, he's hers. Surely, among all Bethsaida's quirky townsfolk, there's a place for a boy like him. As Tess puts her dynamite Make-Aaron-Feel-Welcome plan into action, she discovers that life beyond her island home can be a cruel place, and that seen through someone else's eyes, Bethsaida might not be the paradise Tess feels it to be. Most of all, she discovers that wishes don't always come true in the way you imagine and that the best luck of all is the kind you make for yourself.

Cynthia Lord's heartfelt Touch Blue is a simple tale, but one that rings with humor, warmth and wisdom. Tess is an understated, down-home kind of heroine - funny, sincere and difficult not to love. Minor cast members are equally as engaging, the setting's unique, while a streamlined plot keeps things moving right along. Touch Blue isn't the kind of story that blows you away with its intensity, it's the kind that makes you smile, the kind that sneaks quietly into your heart and stays there long after you've turned its last page. Like Tess' blue lobster, it's a pleasant surprise, a thing of unusual beauty. And since that's enough sap to color the weathered cheeks of any Maine fisherman, I'll put it simply: Ayuh. I loved it.

(Readalikes: I can't really think of any. Can you?)

Grade: B+

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG for one instance of very, very vague sexual innuendo and subject matter (parental abandonment, alcoholism) most suitable for kids over the age of 8 or so

To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of Touch Blue from the generous folks at Scholastic. Thank you!

1 comment:

  1. I've been adding a ton of your books to my Good Reads list lately. There are so many that look great. Do you have any I can borrow? If I can just find some time to read again...

    Hope things are going well for you guys, especially you since the last treatments. Tell Eric hello from us, have a great Thanksgiving, and we hope to see you sometime over the holidays!

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