Castelman, Virginia. Sara, Lost and Found
February 9th 2016 by Aladdin
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Sara and her sister Anna have gone more than a week without their father returning home. In desperation, Sara steals a roll of paper towels from a convenience store in order to have something to eat that will quell the hunger pangs the girls feel. When their caseworker, Mrs. Craig, knocks on their door with a policeman the girls panic and run out of the house, ending up at Ben and Rachel Silverman's. The Silvermans have kept the girls for short periods before, so get them warm and clean. Anna has some problems relating to others, and tends to bite and hit if someone touches her, so Sara is worried when the girls are placed temporarily with a doctor and his family. The girls do well there, and even find a stray cat to have as a pet, but the family is moving to South America. For their next placement, Anna is sent to a residential treatment facility, and Sara is sent to the Chandlers, in the same neighborhood where she and Anna found the cat. This time, things go fairly well. Sara makes a friend in Lexi, gets tutored in reading at the library by Ben, and gets some psychological counseling. She and Lexi even make a small local news splash by starting a program to place stray cats at senior care facilities. Eventually, her father ends up in jail, and is taken to court to surrender his parental rights so that Sara can be adopted by the Chandlers.
The author mentions that she was put in an orphanage when she was young, and this personal experience add a poignant authenticity to Sara's struggles. While Sara faces difficulties, and her placements don't always go smoothly, there is some hope in her life, and people who try to do what is right for her. This doesn't gloss over the fact that sometimes, placements don't go well; Anna has been abused at a home when she was separated from Sara.
For some reason, books about abused children are popular reads for older middle grade readers; perhaps reading such things makes their own experience seem much better. For readers of Hunt's One for the Murphy's, Connor's Waiting for Normal or Dowell's Where I'd Like to Be, Castleman's nuanced portrayal of a girl navigating life without her parents will be a sad but interesting book to pick up.
This is not a great cover, though. This book was published earlier by Archway, and that cover gives a little more insight into the contents of the book.