cover image Bird Springs

Bird Springs

Carolyn Marsden, . . Viking, $14.99 (124pp) ISBN 978-0-670-06193-8

M arsden's (The Gold-Threaded Dress ) affecting novel centers on 11-year-old Gregory, an earnest Navajo boy who relocates with his mother and baby sister from the Bird Springs reservation to a Tucson motel. Marsden gradually reveals the story behind their move: after severe drought had forced most residents to leave the reservation, the boy's father (who had physically abused his wife) drove off in his truck and never returned. With no water to drink, Gregory's mother took her children and boarded a Tucson-bound bus. In his new school, Gregory struggles to acclimate to his alien, unsettling new life; during social studies, “as Mr. Best showed pictures of the pyramids from different angles, Gregory closed his eyes to Ancient Egypt. The world was mysterious enough already.” However, the fifth grader does make two friends—Matt, a bighearted, gutsy classmate, and a caring art therapy teacher, each of whom helps Gregory adjust to his new life and accept the loss of his old one. Marsden creates some decidedly poignant moments: erroneously thinking he has spied Dad's truck passing by, Gregory eagerly wheels his sister's stroller through the city streets in search of him. In the novel's final scene, at once wistful and hopeful, the boy decides it is time for a long-overdue haircut and, acknowledging that his father will not return, opts for only a trim in order to keep his hair long—like Dad's—as he spots auspicious rain clouds in the distance. Ages 8-up. (May)