Rebecca Behrens books
Rebecca Behrens books
Rebecca Behrens books

One of my favorite reads of 2011 was Sheila O’Connor’s Sparrow Road. A midwest setting, a creepy mansion/artist’s colony, and mysteries–what more could you want? (Not to mention beautiful prose and compelling characters.) So I was very excited to read the author’s next book, Keeping Safe the Stars. Here’s a summary from Goodreads:

Such a gorgeous cover

When crisis hits, a young girl becomes the only one left to take care of her family

Nightingale and Baby are the Stars. Orphaned and living with their
grandfather, Old Finn, in rural Minnesota, the children, like their
grandfather, are wary of outsiders. They believe, as Old Finn taught
them, in self-reliance.

But then Old Finn falls seriously ill and
is taken to the hospital all the way in Duluth, leaving the children to
fend for themselves. Pride, as oldest, assumes the lead. Though she
makes mistakes, she keeps them afloat; they even earn money for the bus
trip to Duluth. But when they finally see Old Finn, he can’t walk or
even say his own name, and Pride knows her days of keeping safe the
Stars are drawing to a close. Self-reliance can’t make Old Finn well
again. But maybe, just maybe, a secret from Old Finn’s past might make a
way for them to stay together after all.

In a review somewhere (possibly on Goodreads), Keeping Safe the Stars was compared to the Boxcar Children series. The resilience and love in the Star family did remind me of that beloved series (not just the plot element of kids fending for themselves). This story is set in the Watergate era, and it was so interesting to step back into a relatively recent time when kids were encouraged to be independent in their home/community–I’m not necessarily saying it’s good or bad that middle-graders rarely roam free on country roads today; things are just different.

This book is full of strength and grit and community, and it has a love story, too. I really adored it.
I’m not alone in my feelings for Keeping Safe the Stars; it recently won the Midwest Bookseller’s Choice award for Children’s Literature.

To see what other marvelous middle-grade books readers and writers are blogging about today, check out Shannon Whitney Messenger’s blog for the MMGM links!