cover image Where the Water Takes Us

Where the Water Takes Us

Alan Barillaro. Candlewick, $18.99 (208p) ISBN 978-1-5362-2454-2

Eleven-year-old Ava is sent to stay with her grandparents on an isolated island when medical complications involving her mother’s pregnancy with twins result in mandatory bed rest. Though Ava usually loves spending time at their cabin, she’s preoccupied with persistent worries that something terrible will happen to her mother while she’s away, and feels guilty about the doctor’s assertion that having Ava home would be more of a burden than a help. Upon finding a dead bird while exploring, Ava perceives it as a bad omen; she later discovers two abandoned bird eggs and takes it as a sign that she must care for them until they hatch. Meanwhile, her grandparents’ cheerful tween neighbor Cody attempts to foster friendship, something that Ava, consumed with her newfound responsibilities, initially rebuffs. Ava eventually warms up to Cody, and when he disappears during a terrible storm, she shores up the courage to search for him, using the skills she’s learned over the summer to navigate the treacherous landscape. Filmmaker and debut author Barillaro’s third-person prose economically portrays Ava’s repeated anxious thoughts, rendering her an at once empathetic and resilient protagonist. The novel’s nail-biting climax is tempered by a comforting resolution, making for a well-rounded story about overcoming fear and embracing change. Ages 8–12. (July)