Touch Blue, by Cynthia Lord
From the jacket: “The state of Maine plans to shut down [Tess's] island schoolhouse, which would force Tess’s family to move to the mainland — and Tess to leave the only home she has ever known. Fortunately, the islanders have a plan, too: increase the number of students by having several families take in foster children. So now Tess and her family are taking a chance on Aaron, a thirteen-year-old trumpet player who has been bounced from home to home.”
My take: Superstitious Tess, daughter of a lobsterman and the island’s schoolteacher, is worried. Her friend Amy’s family moved off the island last year, dropping the enrolled student population below the state of Maine’s minimum threshold. If the state follows through on its threat to close the school before the fall term begins, Tess’ family will be forced to move to the mainland. So, her family and several others have agreed to foster school-aged kids, in the hopes that this will convince the state to keep the school open. Unfortunately, this plan is not without its unknowns — one of which is Aaron, who has no interest in island life or his new foster sisters, but who does have an interest in finding his mother, whose parental rights were severed by the state.
I found Tess to be a sweet narrator. With her superstitions (touch blue for luck or don’t whistle on a boat) and her fear of change, you can see that she’s got a lot on her plate. And in her anxiety, she makes a lobster pot’s worth of mistakes in judgment. But, mostly, those mistakes are made with good intentions at heart, even if their application may leave something to be desired. Aaron, too, is believable as a kid who’s lost too many families to open himself up to the possibility that this one might stick — and that’s particularly brought to light when he finds out that the islanders are using his and the other foster kids’ presence for their own purposes. Little sister Libby and Tess’ parents have a wholesome, timeless feel about them, where you feel like they could have stepped out of Gone-Away Lake or its ilk.
A generally sweet summertime book with an old-fashioned feeling to it.