Pine Island Home

Holiday House/Margaret Ferguson Bks. Sept. 2020. 240p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780823447855.
Gr 4-7–Fourteen-year-old Fiona’s take-charge nature comes in handy when the four McCready sisters are orphaned, and find out upon arrival that their aunt no longer lives in British Columbia. Energetic Fiona, practical Marlin, dreamy Natasha, and timid Charlie hatch a plot to avoid social services, enlisting the crotchety next-door neighbor to pose as their guardian, trading him Marlin’s home-cooked dinners and $20 a week for car rides and an adult signature when needed. Once readers are on board with the girls’ very occasional sadness over the loss of both parents, the story is warm, funny, and insightful. School principal Miss Webster and conservation officer Don Pettinger help keep their secret, but the girls, in grades from high school to elementary, make a run at challenges quite ingeniously on their own. Al Farber is a richly drawn curmudgeon, with depth of character that brings to mind Susan Smith from Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s The War That Saved My Life.
VERDICT This deserves a place in most libraries—Horvath hits the perfect notes of independence, adventure, and sentimentality, without being cloying. Hand to fans of Jeanne Birdsall’s The Penderwicks and Karina Yan Glaser’s The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street.

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