4 out of 4 stars
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Lea McKinney's summer plans come crashing down like waves against the shore when her parents announce that they are separating for the summer. To make matters worse, Lea will have to stay in Texas with the aunt she hardly knows while her brother gets to stay with their grandmother. Lea is also reluctant to leave her best friend Laura behind in Virginia, and she can already feel the loneliness sink in as the car pulls out of the driveway. How will she ever deal with the pain, frustration, and separation from her family when she must spend the summer with a stranger?
SandPeople: An Across Time Mystery by Cheryl Kerr is a coming-of-age story with a bit of history, a sense of mystery, and a few ghost sightings. The content is well-written and suitable for upper middle-grade readers ages eight to fourteen.
The story does not focus on Lea's parents and whether they will get back together; instead, the focus is on Lea and her transformation over the summer. It presents a depiction of Lea working through her differences and getting to know her aunt. I think these situations are helpful because they reveal the process of learning from one's mistakes and making the best of a situation that was not a result of personal choice but of parental preferences. The author also wove in a bit of historical fiction that was both educational and exciting. I appreciated how well Kerr blended the historical elements into the story without making it dry and boring.
I loved how simple it was to get swept up in Kerr's writing. The author uses Lea's struggle with change to paint a beautiful picture of what it means to grow up and adjust to the unexpected nature of life. Through the course of the novel, Kerr shows us that Lea is caught in the tide between childhood and adulthood. One moment the twelve-year-old Lea is reaching for her teddy bear, and the next, she is being allowed to walk the beach without supervision. I believe that this story expresses a range of emotions that will be spot-on for the target audience to relate to, and the situations that Lea works through are also easy to understand and relate to for a young reader.
My favorite part of the book was how the author created the perfect scenes that allowed imagination to roam free. Through horseback riding to an abandoned mission, using a metal detector to find buried treasure, and exploring a life-size model ship, Kerr depicts a fantastic atmosphere for the mind to examine the numerous promises that a summer adventure can hold. SandPeople is precisely the type of middle-grade fiction that allows readers to dive into the mystery of the past, imagine the possibilities, and put themselves into the search for answers.
I didn't find anything I disliked about the book. There were a few minor errors, but otherwise, the book is well-edited. The writing contains no swearing or age-inappropriate content and is well-suited to its target audience. Therefore, I gladly give the book 4 out of 4 stars. I loved how relatable Lea was, with her honest inner feelings and her progression through change expressed clearly throughout the story. Lea's transition and growth throughout the book make for an excellent middle-grade read that will appeal to anyone looking for an escape from loneliness or who is dealing with circumstances that feel out of their control. I would certainly recommend it to young readers that feel torn between childhood and adulthood. I believe that this book contains an excellent story for easing the transition and encouraging growth, and it was a delight to read!
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