Description: It’s the summer before seventh grade, and twelve-year- old Raine O’Rourke’s mother suddenly takes a job hours from home at mysterious Sparrow Road- a creepy, dilapidated mansion that houses an eccentric group of artists. As Raine tries to make sense of her new surroundings, she forges friendships with a cast of quirky characters including the outrageous and funky Josie. Together, Raine and Josie decide to solve the mysteries of Sparrow Road-from its haunting history as an orphanage to the secrets of its silent, brooding owner, Viktor. But it’s an unexpected secret from Raine’s own life that changes her forever.
Review: Without any explanation, Raine and her mother, Molly, move for the summer from Milwaukee to an artist retreat called Sparrow Road, which overlooks Lake Michigan. Raine is understandable upset by her mother’s impulsive move. She leaves her beloved Grandpa Mac behind and is unsure why her mother took the job of a housekeeper and cook at a mysterious resort.
Always in the mood to solve a mystery, Raine wonders about the relationship between her mother and the Sparrow Road caretaker Viktor, who greets her with strict rules about no noise before 5:00 PM and leave the artists alone among others; and why her mother (and seemingly the other adults) never allows her to be alone, especially outside of the manor.
Though the book is written for a younger audience, many adults are featured in the story. Diego, the friendly and warm artist who enjoys making collages, befriends and encourages Raine to dream and write down her questions, which he says will help her figure out the answers. The charismatic and flamboyant Josie tells her about the orphanage that was once here. I loved all the characters in Sparrow Road. All of them were fully and well developed and each had a distinct voice and personality, but they never overshadowed Raine. I also love the relationship between Raine and her mother. The adults nurture but do not smother her, which allowed Raine to discover herself, her family and her own artistry freely. Readers discover Raine’s past and secrets as she learns about dark revelations about her family. Though the issues that O’Connor brings up are serious, they are not preachy and glossed over. The author makes Raine deal with it maturely deals with them maturely and realistically.
Readalikes: Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo or Summer of May by Cecilia Galante