The Question of Miracles

240p. ebook available. Houghton Harcourt. Feb. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544334649; ebk. $16.99. ISBN 9780544332553.
Gr 4–6—Iris is starting sixth grade in a new school in Oregon-new house, new people, new life. Her parents want to distract her from the recent death of her best friend in California. The incessant rain echoes her state of mind and she turns away from potential friends, seeking instead someone she can barely tolerate-so that she must only endure minimal interaction. His name is Boris, and while he is obviously an outcast, Iris prefers to be on the outskirts right now. Her brain is grappling with unanswerable questions-is the essence of Sarah out there somewhere? Would Sarah's spirit follow her to her new house? Iris explores possible avenues to find the answers-priests, a psychic, and an experiment with electronic voice phenomena. Iris's relationship with Boris transmutes into a real friendship as she expands her horizons to include him and even confide in him. Boris, meanwhile, enjoys the first real friendship he has had in a long time. This is a realistic view of grief, with particular emphasis on the agonizing longing to know if a lost loved one is truly out there somewhere. Iris's stay-at-home dad fills the story with great flavors and textures-from the baby chicks he hatches to his homemade bread, giving the story a cozy touch despite Iris's impossible quest for answers. Recommended for larger collections and anywhere a new title on grieving is needed.—Kathy Cherniavsky, Ridgefield Library, CT
Sixth-grader Iris, mourning the death of her friend Sarah in a car accident, seeks to make sense of the tragedy. She wants to know why Sarah died when she, Iris, standing just a few feet away, survived. Iris feels Sarah’s presence and tries various ways of communicating with her, including mirror gazing and electronic voice phenomena, a technique she finds on the internet. When she discovers that her new friend Boris was a “miracle baby” who survived near-fatal problems in utero, she fixates on the concept of miracles. In the course of her search for meaning, Iris initially rejects the consolations offered by religion, her parents, and her therapist. In the end, though, it is precisely those consolations -- the power of memory, the cycle of nature, the value of metaphorical thinking -- and the solace of a new friend that help Iris pull through. Arnold tackles tough questions here, but she does so gently, with small, focused effects. Iris’s parents are a bit kooky, but they’re not cartoons. Boris is an outsider, bullied at school, but confident in his own way. Church doctrine is not useful to Iris, but neither is it derided. Iris changes, but her growth is slightly shaky and provisional. In other words, realistic. sarah ellis
Sixth grader Iris seeks to make sense of her friend Sarah's death in a car accident. When Iris discovers that her new friend Boris was a "miracle baby," she fixates on the concept of miracles; ultimately, it's the solace of friendship that helps Iris pull through. Arnold tackles tough questions gently, with small, focused effects. Iris's growth is slightly shaky and provisional--in other words, realistic.

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