cover image Kepler's Dream

Kepler's Dream

Juliet Bell. Putnam, $16.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-399-25645-5

Writing as Bell, adult novelist Sylvia Brownrigg pens her first children's book, an affecting story about the complexities of family relationships and the value of imagination. Eleven-year-old Ella is spending her summer at what she calls "Broken Family Camp" in Albuquerque with her quirky estranged grandmother, Violet Von Stern (who Ella nicknamesGM, for "General Major"), while her mother undergoes treatment for leukemia. GM's peacock-populated property and sprawling adobe house offer an array of curiosities, but Ella feels trapped in a rigid household where even breakfast means undergoing a grammar drill. When an antiquarian book dealer and his team arrive to digitize GM's prestigious library, her prized astronomy book goes missing. Ella and her new friend Rosie form an amateur detective agency and trace the family's rocky history to recover Kepler's Dream and possibly repair damaged relationships. Ella's touching and dry-witted letters to her mother detail her adventures and lessons learned, lending the story emotional complexity without sentimentality. Despite her circumstances, Ella translates the world with a candid, sassy voice and a surprising amount of wisdom. Ages 10%E2%80%93up. Agent: Geri Thoma, Markson Thoma. (May)