Review of Pine Island Home

Pine Island Home
by Polly Horvath
Intermediate    Ferguson/Holiday    229 pp.    g
9/20    978-0-8234-4785-5    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-8234-4883-8    $9.99

Horvath (Everything on a Waffle, rev. 5/01) returns to her sweet spot (parents lost in tragic accident; quaint British Columbia setting) for her latest novel. When after a long journey orphaned sisters Fiona, Marlin, Natasha, and Charlie arrive at the Pine Island home of the only relative willing to take them in, they discover that Great-Aunt Martha has died and that her house is theirs. They decide, audaciously, to stay. Reasoning that in order to avoid foster care they must find an adult willing to be their guardian, even if in name only, they hire a neighbor, the bellicose and usually hungover Al, to pose as theirs. The book’s tension grows from Fiona’s attempts to keep the tenuous deception going as she struggles to juggle household and school responsibilities; act as surrogate parent to her younger sisters; put off a suspicious lawyer; and find the money to pay hefty inheritance taxes. Of course, everything would be much easier if the girls had a real guardian, and they pin their hopes on teacher Miss ­Webster, who has been let in on their secret. ­Horvath’s resolution nicely subverts just about all readers’ expectations (though that ending comes quite abruptly); meanwhile, readers will be treated to a story featuring suspense, believable characters, a fully realized setting, and nuggets of Horvath wisdom (“It suddenly occurred to her that…[a bear’s] mind might be full of all kinds of things just as hers was. The things he loved, the things he feared, the things he missed, the new things he was puzzling out. That any creature’s life was made up of the wonderful jumble of what they held in their head and their heart”).

From the September/October 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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