Creech, Sharon. The Great Unexpected.
2 September 2012, Harpercollins
Nominated for the Cybils by John Schumacher
Copy received from YA Books Central and reviewed there.
The town of Blackbird Tree has more than its fair share of orphans and old people. Naomi lives with Nula and Joe, her mother having passed away shortly after her birth, and her father dying of an infection after a dog attack that also disfigured Naomi's arm. Her friend Lizzie lives with a couple she hopes will adopt her. The two makes friends with Finn, an unusual boy who also has a mysterious past. While the children in Blackbird Tree are hanging out, helping the strange and elderly (Crazy Cora, Witch Wiggins, etc.), an older woman in Ireland is planning revenge. She sends her solicitor to spy on the residents of Blackbird Tree and report things back to her. This lady is somehow connected to Nula, and when Joe passes away, the solicitor has Nula, Naomi and Lizzie all come to Ireland, where all of the secrets of the past are revealed and come together for everyone's benefit.
Strengths: Creech has a writing style that incorporates all of the elements of stories that language arts teachers love. There's foreshadowing, character development, conflict, and good use of all sorts of figurative language, as well as symbolism. While some of the mysteries I had figured out early on, there were some surprises at the end.
Weaknesses: This had a lot of quirky characters and improbable connections and occurences. It is realistic fiction even though many of the reviews I looked at hinted that magic was invovlved. I think that this would be a hard book for students to get into on their own.