After 14-year-old Sophie and her two best friends, K and Wyatt—all living with adoptive caretakers near a rural municipal airport—see a girl piloting a solo hot air balloon, a cloud hopper, fall from the sky in a sudden storm, they rush to help her. When she doesn’t speak, they try everything to learn more—visiting her in the hospital, searching the crash site, bribing the hospital staff with Wyatt’s blueberry confections, and doing reconnaissance to determine the hopper’s provenance. As Sophie’s grandmother’s multiple sclerosis progresses and Wyatt uncovers something painful from her own past, the three friends face the inevitable hard truth that to save the girl, they must leave her be. In lyrical prose that conveys moving interpersonal relationships, Kephart (The Great Upending
) creates a quirky group with a capacity for friendship that amuses and endears, and provides a nuanced look at immigration and found family. Soft sketches by Sulit depict the characters and picturesque setting. Ages 11–14. Agent: Karen Grencik, Red Fox Literary. (Sept.)
Correction: A previous version of this review misstated the protagonist's last name.