BIRD LAKE MOON by Kevin Henkes (published by Greenwillow) is a boy book that deals with issues of divorce and death. Twelve-year-old Mitch Sinclair reluctantly accompanies his mom to his grandparents’ lake house after his dad announces he wants a divorce. The tension mounts quickly as Mitch finds it hard to accept the divorce, and his grandparents seem less than enthusiastic about their long-term house guests.
Mitch adopts an empty house next door as his getaway place, but too soon the long-gone owners of the house return. They are a family of four–Mom, Dad, Spencer (10) and Lolly (7). They bring with them the sad memory of a first son who drowned in the lake eight years ago.
Mitch and Spencer become friends, even after Spencer discovers Mitch’s prank to release the family dog. They discover a bond in their losses–Mitch’s father and Spencer’s brother. Both of them come to realize they must rise above their problems and take control of their lives.
The book is well-written with characters many young readers can identify with. While this book is not a fast-moving action thriller, it offers a glimpse into modern life which many children can relate to and which they would find interesting. For those readers ready to try another Henkes’ novel, direct them to OLIVE’S OCEAN–another introspective book which deals with death and coming of age.
GHOST LETTERS by Stephen Alters (published by Bloomsbury) has a combination of adventure, supernatural, and historical elements. Gil–a fourteen-year-old who has just been expelled from McCauley Prep School because he copied a poem off the Internet and claimed it as his own–is exiled to seaside Massachusetts to stay with a grandfather he barely knows while his busy jet-setting parents decide what to do with him.
In the three-week interim, he finds a mysterious blue bottle at the ocean’s edge and begins sending messages back and forth over time to an Indian boy caught up in an 1896 British conflict in the tea growing area of Ajeegarb.
While Gil is trying to tying to make sense of these strange messages, he meets Nargis–a local girl his own age–at a trash dump where they discover another mystery–a smelly skeleton hand belonging to a 19th century local spinster, the victim of lost love.
There is also a mysterious ghostly letter carrier and a poetic genie involved in all this. Sometimes the fantastical elements seem a bit too much, but the book is a page turner. Gil and Nargis are determined to solve the mystery and to help their new friend in India escape the horrors of war as well as reunite the star-crossed lovers.
With the threat of being sent to military school looming over him, Gil manages to use the supernatural powers to his advantage, and in doing so a happy ending ensues for all.
This book provides interesting mysteries woven into a historical setting and interlaced with numerous fantasy elements. Boy readers should enjoy this fast-paced tale.