The Stars of Whistling Ridge

HarperCollins/Quill Tree. Jun. 2021. 400p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780063006416.
Gr 4-7–Twelve-year-old Ivy Mae Bloom is tired of living in an RV, and traveling around the country all the time with her parents and two younger sisters. But her mother is a falling star, who is charged with repairing places in the world where magic is broken, and for that she has to travel. One day Ivy Mae steals nine of her mother’s wishing jars, and uses them all to wish for a forever home. The next day, Ivy wakes up with a serious illness that makes it hard for her to breathe. The family quickly drives to her Aunt Agatha’s house in Whistling Ridge, North Carolina, a place where Ivy feels an immediate sense of belonging. But there’s something seriously wrong in Whistling Ridge, something that’s causing the town’s famous apples to be filled with smoke. As Ivy learns more about the town and its history, she begins to suspect that the problems are linked to Lydia Lovelace, a woman who supposedly died of a broken heart many years before. With complex, believable characters, and a premise that blends everyday life with an original magical backstory, this novel balances the familiar resentments of adolescence with a high-stakes fantasy plot. It also explores the tensions between multiple characters who care deeply for each other, in spite of having radically different goals. The main characters (Ivy and her family, and her friend Simon) are all described as white (although Ivy’s mom and aunts are described as having golden skin and white hair), while one of Ivy’s friends, Ravi, is Indian American, and the town librarian is described as having “light brown skin, and shiny straight black hair.” Baldwin adeptly develops even the minor characters, like Ravi’s father, a pharmacist with an obsession with creating new flavors of ice cream, and one of Simon’s two moms, a former chef who makes amazing cupcakes. Since Ivy is an aspiring writer, she often includes embellished language (like frisson and cataclysm) and their definitions into her first-person narrative.
VERDICT This well-written, magical story will appeal to fans of Ingrid Law’s Savvy, and other novels that blend fantasy with contemporary fiction.

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