cover image Where I Belong

Where I Belong

Mary Downing Hahn. Clarion, $16.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-544-23020-0

Ostracized for his long hair and standoffish attitude, sixth-grader Brendan Doyle takes solace in his art and his belief in the legendary Green Man, an ancient spirit who protects the forest and its inhabitants. When Brendan stumbles upon an imposing tree in the woods and builds a tree house where he can escape from bullies, as well as his nagging foster mother, he’s certain that he’s finally “found the place where I belong.” The 12-year-old meets two kindred spirits—Ed, an elderly man he thinks is the Green Man, and an insightful girl named Shea who is his own age—and believes that both of them, like him, belong in “the real real world, not the fake real world.” After Brendan is brutally beaten by thugs, his two friends help him, in very different ways, to better understand what is real and where he truly belongs. Hahn (Mr. Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls) gives Brendan a narrative voice that is urgent, contemplative, and believable in this nuanced story about transformation, trust, identity, friendship, and loss. Ages 9–12. (Sept.)