Friday, October 12, 2012

Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord

I received Touch Blue as part of a prize pack from Scholastic some time ago.  We'd just visited Maine in August and I wish that I'd read and reviewed this book in time for summer.  It's just the sort of book I'd want to pack for my niece for a weekend read.

The blurb:

"Touch Blue" and your wish will come true.

"Why take chances?" says eleven-year-old Tess Brooks.  "Especially when it's so easy to let the universe know what you want by touching blue or turning around three times or crossing your fingers."

But Tess is coming to know that it's not always that simple.  The state of Maine plans to shut down her island's schoolhouse, which would force Tess's family to move to the mainland - and Tess to leave the only home she's 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 bounced from home to home.  And tess needs a plan of her own - and all the luck she can muster. Will Tess's wish come true or will her luck run out?

I really enjoyed Touch Blue

  • learning about life as part of small long term community.  When the neighbors call out to Tess and Aaron, he's weirded out by the fact that they all know about him and his background.  I can certainly sympathize with Aaron's need for privacy and anonymity.  As Tess says, "Living on an island does have its share of good-luck/bad-luck parts. One good/bad thing is how everyone knows everyone else.  That's good luck if you need a stick of butter or help launching your boat. The bad luck is that it's near impossible to keep a secret on Bethsaida, because everyone knows everyone else's business." I loved reading about the life of a fisherman/lobsterman in Maine - I've always been curious about what it means to be a lobsterman and so joining Tess and her father and Aaron on their rounds was particularly interesting for me.
  • Tess and Libby - I loved the two sisters.   From the very start, you can feel how excited Tess and Libby are to have Aaron share their home.  Tess plans to show him all her favorite spots on Bethsaida, to talk about books, to go fishing.  Tess misses her best friend Amy and can't understand why she hasn't received any response to her many letters.  While Tess doesn't expect Aaron to take Amy's place, it's clear that Tess is hoping that Aaron will become a solid part of their family, that he'll enjoy being with them.
  • Aaron - prickly, reserved, and kind.  Aaaron's complicated because he's had a difficult life.   He does try to change things and doesn't give up.  He reaches out to certain people and his love for music gives him an "in".
There's quite a lot of action in the book - enough to keep a young kid interested and occupied.  There's the anticipation as Tess and Libby meet Aaron for the first time.  Aaron's first day as Tess tours him around the island. The inevitable confrontation between the town bully and Aaron.  Aaron and Tess's dad bonding (and excluding Tess) as they go fishing, checking the lobster traps.   The Fourth of July music session with all the drama and fireworks. Aaron's attempt to find his mother and the culmination of kids' joint efforts during the Annual Talent Show.  Touch Blue is funny, satisfying, and full of hope.  It's a book that I plan to share with my young nieces and nephews.

ISBN-10: 0545035325 - paperback $6.99
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.; Reprint edition (June 1, 2012), 192 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

About the Author:
Cynthia Lord was inspired to write this book by her own experience as a Maine island school teacher, and by a community of islanders off the coast of Maine that once took in foster children in order to keep their school open.

Lord's debut novel Rules, was awarded a Newbury Honor and the Schneider Family Book Award, among its many distinctions.  Touch Blue is her second novel. Lord lives on the mainland in Maine with her family.  Learn more at