Monday, December 5, 2011

Book Review: What Happened on Fox Street by Tricia Springstubb (2010)

What Happened on Fox Street is a realistic fiction middle grade novel about Mo Wren, a young girl whose single dad has sort of given up in the aftermath of his wife's death, leaving Mo to do the thinking and worrying for the entire family, as well as look out for her "Wild Child" younger sister, Dottie. When developers begin sending letters to the Wrens and their neighbors, Mo realizes she might lose her home on Fox Street that contains memories of her mother, and strives to prevent this from happening. She also must deal with changes in her newly-rich best friend, Mercedes, who is slowly coming to important realizations about her own family.

This book explores similar themes to a 2011 title I really love, One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street. Because I loved Orange Street so much, at times, this book didn't feel like it measured up. Fox Street is a really strong novel in its own right, however, and I found myself becoming more interested and more invested in the characters as the book went on. The strongest character in the book, in my opinion, is actually Dottie, the eccentric, neglected, wandering younger sister. Her behavior and her need for attention from each of the neighbors was really heartbreaking, and drove home the dysnfunction of the Wren family, even when Mo wasn't sophisticated enough to put the family's problems into words. I was also really pleased with the way the author handled the death of Mo's mother. Though this event was clearly a traumatic one in Mo's life, the narrative didn't dwell completely on the mourning process - rather, this is a book about finding ways to move on after a major loss.

What I enjoyed most about this book, I think, was the way the neighborhood came to life. The different buildings and people on Fox Street were so vivid in my mind, and though the street map at the start of the book wasn't labeled, the author's descriptions made it easy to pick out each family's home without hesitation. Additionally, though I won't spoil the ending, I think this book has one of the strongest ending lines in any children's book I've ever read. Not only does it wrap up the threads of  the story, it also hints at the changes brought about between Mo and her sister, and what their relationship might be like in the future.

I think this story will work best for readers who are already hooked on realistic fiction. I'm looking forward to reading Mo Wren, Lost and Found, which was published this past September, to find out what happens next for the Wrens.

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