Schools are under stress. Redistricting. Closing. City schools. County schools. What about a one room school house on an island? Can you keep it open by letting the universe know?
TOUCH BLUE by Cynthia Lord, Scholastic Press, 2010
When ll year old Tess’s best friend Amy moves out of town, that lowers the student number in the local school and throws the town educational plan–and Tess–into chaos. The town is an island community and the school is a one room school with one teacher, Tess's mother. The state of Maine will close the school due to dwindling enrollment and Tess and her family will be forced to move to the mainland, UNLESS the school population increases. Therein lies a plan.
The town has one plan; Tess and her friends have several others. Islander families are encouraged to take in foster children to increase the school enrollment number. This works well within some families and not others. It also brings out the usual bullies, the ones who look for any weakness or sadness to exploit.
Tess has a normal family, a pleasant change from many of today’s novels. Mom is a teacher and Dad is a fisherman, a nice guy, one who listens. They become foster parents to Aaron, a trumpet playing youngster who has seen many types of foster homes and could easily head down the wrong road. Tess misses her best friend and fears losing the only home she’s ever known. Common bonds are difficult to forge, but similarities do bring the two closer together. Of course, there is a typical little sister, ready with comments Tess doesn’t want announced. I said the family was normal, remember?
Aaron wants to leave the island to search for his mother, to find out why she left him. That could mean the school would close. Tess has every reason to keep Aaron on the island. What if she finds Aaron’s mother and brings her to their home?
Every chapter begins with a superstition, how to get or keep good luck or how to get rid of bad luck. Tess wishes and spins around three times when needed and asks the plaintive question, "Why take chances? Especially when it’s so easy to let the universe know what you want by touching blue or turning around 3 times or crossing your fingers?”
Tess needs all the luck she can get when she takes matters into her own hands and gets in big trouble. How does she get out of her self-created pickle? I’ll save that for the reader to discover.
This is a warm and humorous book written by a Newbery Honor winner. If you’ve been wishing for a book like this for your middle grade readers, luck is on your side.