O'Connor, Sheila. Keeping Safe the Stars
11 October 2012, Putnam Juvenile
Nominated for the Cybils by Joanne R. Fritz
When Pride's grandfather, Old Finn, is taken to the hospital with encephalitis, Pride knows that she can't tell the authorities that she and her sisters, Nightingale and Baby, have no one to look after them except the elderly and slightly bewildered Miss Addie. The siblings were in foster care once, after the death of their parents, but have enjoyed being with Old Finn on his farm, being home schooled by him and keeping to themselves. In The Boxcar Children fashion, Pride sets out to feed and care for her family, going so far as to set up a small side show cum snack bar for tourists in order to earn money to buy food. Some of the adults in town are suspicious, including a reporter who is charmed by their tourist stop and wants to write an article about it, but can never meet the grandfather to get him to sign a release. When the grandfather is taken to a larger hospital in Duluth, Pride decides she needs to raise money to visit him, and also thinks it a good idea to hunt down a woman whose letters to her grandfather she has found, Justine. Eventually, the concerned adults talk to one another and find a way to get the children the care that they need.
Strengths: Middle grade books frequently depict the main characters in orphan like settings so that they can save the day-- this book showcases actual orphans who have most of their caregivers taken away. Readers who enjoy quirky survival stories will like this one.
Weaknesses: The historical setting of this one (1974, the year that Nixon was impeached) was a bit confusing. Perhaps the story was set then because children's services would be called more quickly today? (Although they weren't in Summer of the Gypsy Moths!) Or so that the children would be inspired by the muscular dystrophy carnivals of the day to make money?