Frances Arrington, . . Philomel, $17.99 (176pp) ISBN 978-0-399-23975-5

Returning to the setting of her lyrical first novel, Bluestem, Arrington builds a suspenseful tale of a 12-year-old girl faced with sophisticated decisions. Colleen McCall, living on the banks of the Missouri River, far from the Civil War still raging in the east, helps her mother deliver a premature baby; her father is away and a widow neighbor who often serves as midwife is too far to fetch in time. When the baby girl dies just an hour after her birth, Colleen tells her six-year-old brother that the newborn is sleeping, and heads to the widow's home for assistance. But on her way, she sees a covered wagon, and stops there, seeking help. Instead, she finds a woman inside who has also just given birth—alone—and is dying. Extracting Colleen's promise to raise her newborn girl and keep her safe from the father ("a dangerous man"), the woman gives Colleen a strongbox full of money plus a gold watch. Colleen switches the babies, and though she plans to tell her parents the truth, something always gets in the way. Arrington makes clear how this knowledge weighs upon Colleen as she grows increasingly attached to baby Bonnie: "She sat there in the cabin listening to her family. She sat there with her secret. Separate again." When Bonnie's real father returns, things grow even more complicated for the heroine, who must decide whether her actions are just. With careful plotting, full-bodied characters and majestic landscapes, this is a page-turner. Ages 10-14. (May)