cover image One Square Inch

One Square Inch

Claudia Mills, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, $16.99 (176p) ISBN 978-0-374-35652-1

Mills (How Oliver Olson Changed the World) delivers a compassionate story about life with a bipolar parent. Eleven-year-old Cooper and his younger sister, Carly, consider their life in Colorado "normal" until their widowed mother begins to sleep all day. After seeing a psychiatrist, she seems to get better, only to swing to the opposite end of the spectrum. Organized and perceptive, Cooper tries to ignore the unpaid bills, power outage, endless projects, and "unbelievable mess," but his mother's behavior embarrasses and angers him ("I started trying to clean up the kitchen.... If the house looked less crazy, it might make her be less crazy, too"). Not knowing where to turn, he and Carly find escape and comfort imagining a place called Inchland, inspired by their grandfather's collection of Quaker Oats deeds to land in the Yukon. Though Cooper's narration at times feels excessively sensitive ("She reached out and gave me a long, enfolding hug. I fought tears as I hugged her back"), the twist of his emotions and depth of his concern for his mother and sister are believable and deeply moving. Ages 10–14. (Sept.)