cover image Clay


Colby F. Rodowsky. Farrar Straus Giroux, $16 (176pp) ISBN 978-0-374-31338-8

In this contemporary story, Rodowsky (Spindrift; The Turnabout Shop) adds an element of suspense without compromising the characteristic intimacy of her previous novels. Eleven-year-old narrator Elsie gradually makes clear that she and her autistic younger brother, Tommy, have been stolen away from their father by their emotionally unstable mother. Since then, their mother has forced the children to move from town to town, as soon as she suspects someone has begun snooping. They change their names with each move, and are not allowed to go to school or make friends. All the while, Elsie has reluctantly cooperated, but with this last move, she begins to question her mother's rules and judgment. When Tommy becomes seriously ill while their mother is at work, Elsie courageously takes risks to save not only her younger brother, but also herself. In previous novels, the author typically focuses on a preteen's adjustment to change; here, however, she portrays a protagonist rightfully refusing to accept her circumstances. Although most readers will not have experienced Elsie's dramatic conflicts, they will likely relate to her feelings of mixed loyalty to each parent and respect her devotion to Tommy. Their eagerness to discover how and when the children will be rescued is sure to keep pages turning. Ages 8-12. (Mar.)