One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Sometimes you don't know what you want because you don't know it exists.
Even though I'm a children's librarian doesn't mean that I love all children's literature unequivocally. Perhaps because I continue to have a strong yen to read adult literature and have read enough children's literature to know that it is not all compelling and engaging, I find myself rather picky in my reading. After all, there is only so much time and so, so many books. If a book fails to capture my attention in the first few chapters, I'm still obliged to slog through to the finish, if only to know how it all ends but also so that I can have a sharper sense of which children I know might be able to appreciate it. Fully aware that we all have our tastes for different flavors of novels, I've been at this job long enough to know that while not every book happens to be my cup of tea, I can usually at least appreciate the author's intent and help it find its way into the right hands.
The difference with One for the Murphy's by Lynda Mullaly Hunt is that she's written a real keeper of a novel, one that I tried to savor as much as possible, until I could no longer pace myself and finished the last 7 or 8 chapters in a mad rush to find out how she was going to have this amazing story end. My favorite genre is contemporary fiction, so my caveat for this review is that my appreciation of realistic fiction knows no bounds. Hunt crafts a story that will draw in almost any reader who picks it up, but will especially appeal to those readers, who like me, crave well-written realistic fiction that takes its readers seriously. By that I mean, please spare us the tidy endings, the happy-ever-after endings, implausible events and superficial details. We want meatiness. We want a box of tissues next to us. Yet we don't want sentimentalism, sappiness, nor silliness. We want characters we can root for, characters we struggle to identify with, and characters we can emphasize with. Hunt chose only the finest ingredients from this mandate and turned out a story about foster care, identity, love, and acceptance that will have you - and your students - talking long after the ending.
Indeed, be someone's hero. If Carley Connors can find her way, then so can we.
If using as a class read-aloud, have The Giving Tree on hand, some Elvis Presley, and a couple of extra Red Sox hats.
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