Janet Taylor Lisle
Atheneum/Simon and Schuster, 2017
Jessie, along with her father, older sister, and younger brother, escape the summer heat of urban Pittsburgh and move into a ramshackle cottage on Quicksand Pond on Rhode Island's coast, a local where Dad spent a summer as a young man. Her older sister is on a quest to be popular and chooses to spend her days on the beach. Younger brother spends his time at a new friend's pool. Jessie prefers the quiet pond on which the house sits. It is here that she uncovers an ancient raft and meets a new friend. Terri is a local girl with a shady family. The two girls instantly bond and set to work restoring the raft. They spend their days floating around the quiet pond and exploring the natural wildlife. Meanwhile, an old woman is watching them through her window with binoculars. She remembers her days on the pond on that raft and welcomes the girls to the tools in her garage to fix it up. Jessie's family is nervous about her relationship with Terri. Is it true what they say about her family? Her grandfather spent most of his adult life in prison after allegedly murdering the old lady's family and her father is a nasty drunk. When valuable items are stolen from the old lady's garage and it is set on fire, all fingers point to Terri. Jessie finds herself in the crossfire. Did Terri do it? Should Jessie cast a light on Terri to make her look more suspicious and to keep herself out of trouble? And who really did murder the old lady's family? Things aren't always what they seem at first glance and Jessie must find the courage to follow her conscious.
Newbery honor winner, Lisle, pens a novel for young people set in a real place; Quicksand Pond, to be found in Lisle's home state of Rhode Island. Lisle's love for the local and respect for it's animal's and fauna comes through in the story, as does her appreciation for its quiet pleasures, such as enjoying the pond from a raft. Readers will envy Jessie's summer spent with a new friend exploring pond life on a raft with complete freedom, while Dad works on writing a book. The setting and mood are predominate in this reading experience, but Lisle also offers an interesting plot. We see the story through Jessie's eyes as well as those of Henrietta Cutting, the old lady in the window. Henrietta and Terri's pasts are connected and a mystery emerges: whether or not Terri's grandfather is responsible for Henrietta's family's death. While watching the girl's on the raft, Henrietta remembers the truth behind that fateful night, sees that justice is done, and finds some peace. Sensitive readers will enjoy this story that shows that life isn't always black and white. Lisle brings attention to inequality between social classes and the justice system. Other themes include the importance of honesty, loyalty, finding time to enjoy family over constant working, and of course the appreciation of nature and simple pleasures. Jessie must find the courage to stand up for what she believes is right and to remain loyal to her friend, even though the rest of the town is against Terri. Great lessons for kids are hidden among an interesting plot and a fully realized and beautifully peaceful settling. A great summer read for thoughtful kids.