Patricia MacLachlan is the celebrated author of many timeless novels for young readers, including Newbery Medal winner Sarah, Plain and Tall; Word After Word After Word; Kindred Souls; The Truth of Me; The Poet's Dog; and My Father's Words. She is also the author of countless beloved picture books, a number of which she cowrote with her daughter, Emily. She lives in Williamsburg, Massachusetts.
Gr 4-7 Minna Pratt is confused: by life and the nature of love, by Mozart and her struggles to play the cello, and by the quotes her writer-mother tapes over her desk, such as ``Fact and Fiction are Different Truths.'' Minna wants everything to follow an orderly pattern like the dinner conversation between her friend Lucas' parents. Through her friendship with Lucas, the newest member of her chamber music group, Minna begins to understand that life is not as simple as she wants it to be. In this book, which recalls Cassie Binegar (1982) more than Sarah, Plain and Tall (1985, both Harper), MacLachlan has written a story of the wistful longings of early adolescents, laced with humor and an uncanny sense of the ordinary, everyday things that make life so special. With the briefest description, she sketches wonderfully memorable characters: Imelda, the violinist who announces obscure facts at odd moments in rehearsal; Lucas' mother, sitting in her solarium thinking up dinner conversation topics; and Minna's brother McGrew, who likes to sing the headlines from the daily paper. The twin themes of writing and music provide an unobtrusive metaphor for Minna's search for order in her world, and provide interesting layers in the writing for perceptive readers. In the end, it is very much a book about that personal tug of war that begins in early adolescence between dependence on one's parents' approval and the need to become one's own person. As such, it will have great appeal for young readers, and will live on in the memory the way the strains of a melody live on after a concert. Connie C. Rockman, The Ferguson Library, Stamford, Conn.
Minna is technically an excellent cellist, but she wants to find her vibrato. The process of that discovery is almost as elusive as the vibrato itself. As are many of Newbery Medalist MacLachlan's heroines, Minna is serious and questioning, counting objects and categorizing them, and wondering why her mother's fiction-writing isn't considered outright lying. Meanwhile, there is Lucas, a new member of her chamber group who has both a viola and a vibrato. He seems not to need questions or answers, but he does want his very formal parents to fuss over him. Lucas and Minna are different and understand each other in ways that may remind readers of the eponymous heroine of Cassie Binegar and her friend Margaret Mary. While Minna's musings make much of this novel sobering and philosophical, the language is playful and intensely poetic about such familiar of things as a laundry basket of unmatched socks. It is impossible not to be swept into the world of Minna's concerns and to find, among the more absorbing aspects, a simple, sweetly told story. Ages 8-12. (July)
"A wonderfully wise and funny story that will be read and reread and relished for a long time."--Horn Book