BLUE EYES BETTER

Ruth Wallace-Brodeur, Author . Dutton $15.99 (128p) ISBN 978-0-525-46836-3

With nary a superfluous scene or a wasted word, Wallace-Brodeur (Steps in Time; Callie's Way) crafts a deeply moving novel exploring a family's loss and grieving. When her 16-year-old brother, Scott, dies in a car accident, 10-year-old Tessa grapples with enormous guilt: although her parents thought Scott was spending the evening at the movies with his longtime best friend, Tessa had known that he was going to take a ride in the car of another, much wilder, boy, who, as it turns out, was drinking that night. Tessa's mother—who always doted on her blue-eyed son, with whom she felt a "kindred spirit"—retreats into her all-encompassing pain and leaves hazel-eyed Tessa and her father to stay with her sister on Cape Cod. The child then finds solace in the company of a grandmotherly neighbor and a progressive music teacher (who doubles as track coach), both of whom have suffered a loss of their own. Through their experiences, they help Tessa to grieve and to understand her mother's struggle.

Tessa's first-person narrative reflects every nuance of the girl's feelings. As Tessa walks her neighborhood streets after her brother's funeral, her life irrevocably changed, she is struck by the steadiness of nature: "An eyelash moon gleamed in the sky above their house. After all that had happened, there it was." The author similarly portrays the contradictions of loss and renewal: Scott's absence also makes room for Tessa to blossom—she discovers her athletic abilities as she pursues the 800-meter dash, and explores her propensity for music. At the urging of her music teacher, Tessa buys a notebook to record her memories of Scott—the bad as well as the good—and her honest entries add another poignant dimension. A fine choice for any middle-grader coping with grief or a grieving parent, and an exquisite example of spare, honest prose. Ages 10-up. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 12/24/2001
Release date: 02/01/2002
Paperback - 106 pages - 978-0-14-250086-6
Prebound-Sewn - 978-0-7569-2931-2
Open Ebook - 112 pages - 978-1-101-54968-1
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