cover image Where I'd Like to Be

Where I'd Like to Be

Frances O'Roark Dowell. Atheneum Books, $15.95 (232pp) ISBN 978-0-689-84420-1

Wrought with the same sensitivity as her debut novel, Dovey Coe, Dowell's quietly affecting novel explores the fragile camaraderie between two 11-year-old girls who are placed in the East Tennessee Children's Home. Narrator Maddie knows there is something special about Murphy the moment the worldly-wise girl arrives. In hopes of sealing a friendship as soon as possible (""When a new kid comes into the Home, you've got to stake your claim quick if you want dibs on being friends""), Maddie, with trepidation, shows Murphy her most prized possession-a scrapbook filled with pictures of houses (""I was afraid she'd say something that would ruin the Book of Houses forever. [People] can take the things you love and twist them around with a few words so you can't bear to ever look at them""). Inspired by the book, Murphy decides they should build a house of their own. The author creates a poignant contrast between the children's rich fantasies, expressed inside the fort, and the sadness that haunts each of them in the outside world. While Maddie dreams of a brighter future, Murphy directs her attention backward, re-creating her history and identity. The author gently reveals the tragedies they have suffered as well as the strength they gain when they are united. A celebration of friendship and of the healing powers of the imagination. Ages 10-14. (Apr.)