Hurricane Child

Caroline Murphy has always heard that her birth during a hurricane cursed her with bad luck, and in her 12th year of life, the story seems true. At the Catholic school she attends on St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Caroline has no friends and teacher Missus Wilhelmina loathes Caroline because her skin is "darker than even the paintings of African queens hanging in the tourist shops." At home on Water Island, a speedboat taxi ride away, Caroline lives with her father and the hole her mother made in their lives when she suddenly left. A constant presence in Caroline's life are the spirits. One, "the woman in black," is particularly disquieting--completely black except for "eyes shining like two full moons in her face"--and Caroline suspects the spirit took her mother. Then she meets Kalinda Francis, a new classmate from Barbados with dreadlocks and a confidence that sends her straight to the head of the pecking order. Caroline is shocked to realize Kalinda can see spirits, too, but even more shocked when the popular girl becomes her close friend. However, Caroline will never feel whole unless she finds her mother, and her growing romantic feelings for Kalinda threaten their bond.

This tender, character-driven exploration of first loss intersecting first love balances sympathetic characters with a setting unfamiliar to many readers. The smooth integration of island details grounds the narrative and provides a sobering backdrop for the elements of magical realism. Kheryn Callender's commitment to remaining within a preteen's scope of understanding preserves the narrative's simplicity and authenticity. Though readable for grades four through seven, ages 10 through 13 may most appreciate this empathetic and emotionally mature coming-of-age drama. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services division manager at Main Branch, Dayton Metro Library

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