Friday, July 22, 2011

Junonia by Kevin Henkes

Alice, nine years old but soon to be ten, arrives in Florida with her parents for their annual vacation. Every year this week is one of the best weeks for Alice: she gets to visit with special friends (elderly folks who spoil her) , she looks for shells to add to her collection, and she celebrates her birthday. Upon arriving, though, Alice discovers that all the usual visitors will not be present.

Feeling slightly disappointed, she decides to go look for shells, and makes up her mind to find a junonia , a rare shell that she desperately wants for her collection.

Alice's mother has a best friend ("Aunt Kate" to Alice) who arrives this year with a boyfriend and his six-year-old daughter Mallory. The plot thickens. Alice dutifully tries to befriend Mallory, but her unhappiness and tantrums make it difficult. Alice's tenth birthday party is almost ruined by one of Mallory's meltdowns.

Alice is thoughtful and mature; her week did not turn out exactly as she had planned it, but she goes home thinking how extraordinarily lucky she is to have the parents that she has, and the friends who tried so hard to make her happy.

I have really mixed feelings about this book: it is beautifully written and illustrated, and the story has some wonderful moments, but the tone is cold. I felt as if I were watching this story unfold behind a glass wall. When I read about Lily, Owen or Chrysanthemum , it is so obvious that Henkes really likes them , and I do, too. He makes me care about what happens to them . I don't particularly care about Alice; she returns to her perfect little world. I do wonder what is going to happen to Mallory, and I fear that her road is going to be a bumpy one. 2011.

M. Cooney

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