A sequel to a beloved book (and I LOVED What Happened on Fox Street- click here to see how I gushed over it) is a tricky thing, particularly in realistic contemporary fiction, in which there is nothing other than character development driving subsequent books. In science fiction or fantasy plot arcs are often created over multiple books and include world building and tangential journeys in addition to character development. Mo Wren, Lost and Found, is a highly satisfying sequel to Fox Street. It is simultaneously quieter and crunchier than Fox Street, which is perfectly in keeping with Mo’s age and development.
The Wrens have sold their house on Fox Street and moved to East 213th, a street with no name, only a number. Although Mr. Wren is putting everything he has into opening a sports bar and family restaurant called The Wren House, Mo is worried. It takes more than hard work and faith to get a business off the ground. Mo is worried about a lot of things lately. She is worried about Da, who is ill but refuses to move in with Mercedes and her family; she is worried that Pi Baggott will forget her; she is worried about her new school. But most of all, she is worried about the curse that supposedly hangs over her new home.
This is a book about small moments, despite some big issues: Mo returning to Fox Street for the first time after being away for a few weeks; the sight of the freshly painted walls in the Wren House; being asked to be someone’s partner for a class project; realizing your little sister is not so little anymore, etc. Tricia Springstubb handles these mini-milestones sensitively and with the kind of freshly scrubbed language I have come to love and expect from her.
I say this book is crunchier because Mo is a bit older a bit more prone to angst and wallowing in worry and self-pity. This is not a bad thing- in fact it is perfectly in keeping with her age and situation- but some readers may be looking for a little more sunshine in their middle grade novels. While things end very well, there are some rainy moments, more-so in this book than in Fox Street.
The most pleasant surprise in this book was the development of Dottie’s character. There are still vestiges of her “Wild Child” persona, but Dottie has grown into a charming and optimistic social butterfly. It is Dottie who first learns to adjust to the Wren’s new surroundings and Dottie who is doing the cheering up this time around. I liked this role reversal between the sisters. Mo still has lots of big sistering to do, particularly when Dottie’s beloved pet lizard Handsome Wren goes missing, but Dottie is given plenty of opportunity to shine.
I very much enjoyed returning to Mo’s world, so lovingly and carefully built by Tricia Springstubb, an author who is bound to become a household name in contemporary middle grade fiction. This is a great read for fans of The Penderwicks, Waiting for Normal, Olive’s Ocean or lovers of “real stories” age 8+.
Mo Wren, Lost and Found is available now in hard cover from Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins.