Published by Dial Books
Summary: Ben thinks he has finally found a real home with his former speech pathologist who adopted him a couple years ago. He’s delighted when he rescues an intelligent little dog from outside the Coney Island library. Then, just as life seems to be turning around, he comes home from school and finds Mom dead on the floor of her bedroom. He’s forced to live with her sister, Aunt Jeanie, whose husband Leo struggles with a drinking problem. Meanwhile, Ben has befriended the librarian’s daughter, Halley, who is undergoing chemotherapy. As Halley and Ben grow closer, her home and family become a refuge for him. Halley is a writer, and she and Ben create a magical science fiction story called “The Magic Box”, but Halley refuses to tell Ben what’s inside the box. Bring out the tissues for the last 50 pages or so as Halley’s health and Ben’s home life deteriorate. The final chapter brings a measure of hope for Ben. And thank goodness, the dog does not die. 256 pages; grades 5-8.
Pros: Okay, I’m the first to admit I’m not a fan of the almost-too-good-to-be-true-young-person-in-a-life-threatening-situation genre (yes, Bridge to Terabithia and The Fault in Our Stars, I’m talking to you), but obviously there are many, many readers who love that very genre, and you should hand this book to them. It’s beautifully written with interesting, believable characters, particularly Ben, and handles many difficult issues with sensitivity and grace.
Cons: There was too much of the story Halley and Ben were writing; I found myself skipping over it and feeling like I didn’t miss much.