Patricia MacLachlan, beloved author of the Newbery Medal-winning Sarah, Plain and Tall, has crafted another lyrical and touching novel for young readers about finding hope after the loss of a loved one.
Declan O’Brien always had a gentle word to share, odd phrases he liked to repeat, and songs to sing while he played basketball. His favorite song was "Dona Nobis Pacem," “Grant Us Peace.” His family loved him deeply and always knew they were loved in return.
But a terrible accident one day changes their lives forever, and Fiona and Finn O’Brien are left without a father. Their mother is at a loss. What words are there to guide them through such overwhelming grief?
At the suggestion of their friend Luke, Fiona and Finn volunteer at an animal rescue shelter, where they meet two sweet dogs who are in need of comfort, too. Perhaps with time, patience, and their father’s gentle words in their hearts, hope will spark once more.
* Junior Library Guild Selection * Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year 2019 (9-12) *
Key relationships in her own life inspired this characteristically taut and resonant novel by Newbery Medalist MacLachlan (Sarah, Plain and Tall). Life as Fiona has known and loved it comes to a screeching halt over runny eggs one morning when Fiona's psychologist father her guiding light, singer of "Dona Nobis Pacem" and player of driveway basketball dies in a car accident after swerving to avoid hitting a child. Since her overwhelmed mother has been pursuing a degree, it falls to Fiona to keep her suddenly withdrawn younger brother, Finn (and herself), afloat over the summer. She receives rock-solid help from Luke, a remarkably intuitive neighbor; Emma, the rescue dog to whom Finn reads and sings at the local shelter; and one of her father's former patients, who pays the doctor's kindness forward by calling Fiona for two minutes each week and passing on her dad's indelible sayings ("Let the whole thing float down the river on a little boat"). MacLachlan masterfully mingles core themes in this slim volume: the power of words and song, memories and family, the mutually redemptive human-canine bond, and "the eternal fitness of things." Ages 8 12.