Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord is set on a remote fishing village/island off the coast of Maine. Tess Brooks, 11 year old avid sailor and lobster catcher, thinks the idea to foster children to keep their public school open could be a great idea. She hopes to get a new friend in the deal when sullen, quiet Aaron Spinney arrives. Tess tries very hard to get musician Aaron to adapt to island life but Aaron is miserable and misses his city life even if it was full of uncertainty and stress. Tess decides to connect Aaron with his mom inviting her to the island to hear him play in the local festival. This involves breaking numerous fostering rules and deceiving her family. The island life, the world at sea and local characters all ring true in this realistic funny/serious story. Cynthia Lord wrote Rules, also reviewed in this blog.
The Year Money Grew on Trees, by Aaron Hawkins is set in 1982 New Mexico. Here's your chance to experience real entrepreneurship (running your business) with a group of regular kids, lead by 8th grader Jackson Jones. Jackson needs to work over the summer and through a series of odd events decides to accept wacky Mrs. Nelson's proposition to run her dilapidated apple orchard. Her promise is that if he can make it profitable over a certain dollar figure, he can have it, TO KEEP! Well he can't do it alone of course and he gets a whole crew together to help consisting of friends and family. He manages to keep them inspired and hard working without ever telling them about the actual deal he has with Mrs. Nelson. From summer all the way until the next fall, Jackson does the research, locates local expertise, keeps his parents from finding out too much and inspires his crew. You might think how interesting could this be, really? And the cover is pretty bad, too! It's actually an engaging, page turning story of stick-to-itiveness, resolve and ultimately doing the right thing. And you'll learn what goes into making those apples you like to eat!
Sharon Draper's amazing point of view novel about 5th grader Melody is one of my favorite Caudill nominees. Melody has been trapped in her body by severe cerebral palsy all her life making it impossible for her to move or communicate. Although her family believes she is so much more that her physical self would have you believe, everyone else thinks she is severely mentally disabled. In fact, Melody is actually mentally gifted having taught herself to read in several languages just by watching television. She knows about science, social studies and the world around her. It isn't until a teacher at her school gets her a speech synthesizing computer that suddenly Melody's world opens up. But not everyone is ready for spunky, big personality Melody who does not want anyone's pity or fake friendship. One of the great aspects of this story is that it has a realistic ending: not all the issues get neatly tied up. Melody's life will continue to have challenges and pitfalls. Any reader who gets to know her will have their eyes and heart opened about disabled classmates as well as the importance of each person finding their voice.