cover image Under the Bridge: With the Ghosts of Hungryhouse Lane

Under the Bridge: With the Ghosts of Hungryhouse Lane

Sam McBratney, Ellen Kindt McKenzie. Henry Holt & Company, $14.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-2614-6

``It happened so fast. One day everything was the way it should be. The next day it was different. All wrong.'' At once quiet and urgent, McKenzie's (A Perfectly Orderly House) opening sentences set the tone she so ably sustains throughout this stirring novel, set in the rural Midwest in 1939. Ritchie, a sensitive 10-year-old, awakens one day to find that his mother has been taken to a hospital. His sour, pathetically incommunicative father tells him nothing, but the boy learns from his teacher that his mother has had something called a nervous breakdown. A kind neighbor named Thad explains what a breakdown might be, and then reaches out to Ritchie and his sickly younger sister, Rosie (whose favorite story is The Three Billy Goats Gruff), through a series of letters, allegedly written by the troll that Rosie believes lives underneath a nearby bridge. As the comforting voice of the troll draws the siblings into an allegorical fantasy, Thad pulls the two children through some dismal months, inventively teaching them about the importance of coping, communicating and maintaining hope. Filled with impressively lifelike characters, McKenzie's narrative is compelling from its sobering start to its resonant finish. Ages 9-12. (Nov.)