Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Moonpenny Island' Tells of Girl's Coming of Age

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Moonpenny Island' Tells of Girl's Coming of Age

Article excerpt

Some people find it stultifying to live in a place so small everyone knows you. For others, it feels cozy and comforting.

Flor is completely content with her surroundings in "Moonpenny Island" (HarperCollins Balzer + Bray, $16.99, ages 8-12), an enjoyable thought-provoking new novel by Tricia Springstubb.

Once the summer people leave, there are "fewer than two hundred souls." Luckily, the only other 11-year-old on the island is Sylvie, who's more than a best friend. To Flor, she's "a perfect friend."

The two girls understand each other completely, or at least that's what they believe. They're not exactly alike, however.

Flor is easily excited and apt to tell others what she thinks. Sylvie is sweeter and more private.

Both have keen imaginations. Flor loves to read; Sylvie to build things.

But then Sylvie reveals that her parents are sending her to a private school on the mainland. They want her to get more out of her education than their tiny school provided for her reckless teenage brother, Perry.

He's always getting into trouble - and he recently totaled his car and was banged up in an accident. Before she leaves on the ferry, Sylvie makes Flor promise she'll watch out for him.

Flor is full of plans for getting Sylvie back. But after a while, the emails and phone calls from Sylvie - with their mentions of sleepovers and a fully equipped art room - sound like she's not so sure she wants to come back.

That's not the only change to throw Flor for a loop. Her Latina mother and her father, the island's proud police officer, fight frequently. He's too easy-going. She doesn't understand the subtleties of the place where he's lived his whole life.

After Flor and her older sister, Cecilia, confront their parents about their arguments, their mother leaves the island to care for their ailing grandmother in Toledo, Ohio. And it's not quite clear when - or whether - she's coming back.

Without being heavy-handed, Ms. Springstubb gives her main character even more to handle. Cecilia, always so well-behaved, starts wearing mascara and a clingy sweater. She's sneaking out and won't tell Flor where she's been. …

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