Even without the adorable graphic of a cuddly looking fox curled up in the O of Fox, I would have snatched this book up based on the title alone. I love vague, suggestive titles that refer to some life changing event, such as What I Saw and How I Lied, or How I Live Now. I think it harkens back to the most intriguing title of my childhood, What Katy Did.* What Katy actually did proved to be a bit of a let down. Not so with the mysterious events alluded to in the title of What Happened on Fox Street.
To the outsider, Fox Street is kind of a run-down place, but not to Mo Wren. Mo loves everything about it. In fact Fox Street is only missing three things: Mo’s mother, who died very young, Mo’s best friend Mercedes, who is about to come for her annual summer visit, and a real, live fox. But Mo is certain that foxes do live on Fox Street, and is determined to discover one before the summer is out. But things get complicated when Mercedes announces that this may be her last summer and Mo discovers that her father is thinking about selling her beloved home and moving the family across town.
I love summer stories, and this book has all the heat, secret forts, popsicles and thunderstorms a girl wants in a summer book. I know that fall is the big season for books, but I do think it’s a bit odd that HarperCollins is releasing this in late August- you’ve missed out on a whole whack of summer readers. Perhaps the paperback will be a spring/summer release. But I digress.
Tricia Springstubb is officially one of my new favourite authors. Right from the first page, she pulls you into the rhythm and routines of Mo’s life. Her writing is fresh and inspired. I loved every single one of her characters, who leap right off the page and into your heart, from Mercedes’ formiddable grandmother to Mo’s little sister, the Wild Child. The tone and style of her writing reminded me of Jeanne Birdsall, who writes the fabulous Penderwicks books, except Springstubb’s setting is not quite so middle class and her characters have a bit more grit, not that I would call this a gritty novel. It is just as lovely as The Penderwicks, but with a different set of issues brought on by economic status.
Personally, I think the timing is just right for a book that features a family struggling with money, and how this affects kids. There were more than a few aspects of Fox Street that reminded me of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books, specifically Ramona and her Father, in which Ramona’s father loses his job and the family has a serious readjustment period. Although it was published in 1977, the subject matter is completely relevant, if not the bell bottoms in the illustrations.
And yet Fox Street isn’t solely about money issues. Some of the action is informed by them, but ultimately it’s a story about family, friendship, community, and hope. What Happened on Fox Street, to me, is an example of pitch-perfect middle grade. Look out for Tricia Springstubb- she’s definitely an author to watch.
What Happened on Fox Street will be available from Balzer and Bray, an imprint of Harper Collins, on August 24th, 2010.
*Not to be confused with the Lost episode What Kate Did, which was definitely NOT a let down. I can only imagine the title of this episode is a nod to the classic (and yet disappointing)novel of my childhood. Oh Lost, how I miss you and your plentiful cultural references…