cover image The Storyteller's Daughter

The Storyteller's Daughter

Jean Thesman / Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $16 (192

Cliches (""His eyes glimmered like jewels"") and obtrusively quaint dialogue (""It was a heart-scald for you when Feep's twin died"") damp down Thesman's (The Rain Catchers) overly melancholy portrait of a Prohibition-era family. Readers who find characters' laments--about split families, lost jobs, diseases and the like--melodramatic will have even more trouble swallowing 15-year-old Quinn's discovery that her father, the highly respected, ""thoroughly good"" Beau John, is a rum smuggler. After Beau John fails to return home from work one Saturday night, Quinn is determined to find him. She picks up clues from some of her more eccentric and/or seedy neighbors: crazy old Elizabetta, who curses Beau John's name; Betty, the young floozy engaged to a gangster; and kindly Mr. Shadwell, a crippled mute, who also seems concerned about Beau John's safety and eventually leads Quinn to her father. Quinn's reunion with her father is reassuring if short-lived (he is on his way to Canada to dodge ""the Federal boys""); knowing that Beau John will return home when the liquor laws change, Quinn is free to brood about other matters, like how to strike up a romance with the Dallas sisters' handsome nephew... the one with the glimmering eyes. Ages 10-14. (Sept.)