Survival Strategy #50: If You Can, Be Brave
It's easy to be brave when your eight-year-old sister, Billie, looks up to you as her protector. Twelve-year-old Liberty feels it's her job to look after Billie once they are sent to live with their father, whom they haven't seen since they were very young. Dad is unpredictable on his best days, but when he abandons the girls at a gas station in the middle of nowhere, Liberty's courage is truly put to the test.
As she and Billie struggle to make it home on their own, they encounter a cast of both helpful and not-so-helpful characters, including a man with caterpillar eyebrows, a lady dressed entirely in lavender, a tattooed trucker with a soft spot for cats, a kid who is a little too obsessed with Star Wars, and a woman who lives with a houseful of nontraditional pets. Along the way, they learn that sometimes you have to get a little bit lost to be found.
Twelve-year-old Liberty and her eight-year-old sister, Billie, have been abandoned by their widowed father at a gas station somewhere in the southwestern U.S. White's gripping debut weaves the events that led them there with what happens over the following three days. Liberty studies animals and records their behavior in her treasured notebook, along with the "survival strategies" she collects along the way (with titles that include "Sometimes You Should Feel Sorry for the Cobra" and "Be Patient, Like a Snapping Turtle," the book's chapters correspond to the tips Liberty catalogues). Left to care for Billie, Liberty uses these techniques to escape a "creepy" gas station attendant, find food and transportation, and try to get home to San Diego. Colorful characters both help and hinder the sisters on a journey that leads Liberty closer to a true home as well as a truer understanding of herself, human vulnerability, and love. While Liberty's animal facts sometimes feel wedged into the narrative, White's story will stay with readers. Ages 8 12.