Illustrations (cover/map) by Heather Ross
Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins), 2010.
218 pages, hardcover.
Saw many a great review*, so requested it from the Library.
“Springstubb centers her story around Fox Street, a dead-end road where a cast of diverse, blue-collar characters eke out existences. To Mo Wren — an analytical, practical girl who lives with her overworked father and younger sister, Dottie, ‘the Wild Child’ — Fox Street has just about everything, except the one thing Mo longs to find: foxes. Springstubb gently and wistfully describes a summer of tough changes for Mo: her best friend, Mercedes, announces she’s not coming back (she has always spent summers on Fox Street with her grandmother), just as Mo’s father threatens to relocate her own family. There is a lovely poetry to Springstubb’s writing (‘Just ahead lay a majestic, fallen tree, its bark thick and protective as the shingles on a house’), and her characters create the kind of interesting neighborhood most kids wish they had: Mrs. Steinbott, the ‘mean, spooky’ neighbor, whose ‘life was solitary as the unplanet Pluto’; Mercedes’s sensible grandmother; and the mischievous Baggott boys, who are named after zodiac signs. Mo’s journey isn’t particularly action packed, but in a singsong, lazy-summer-afternoon kind of way it’s quite refreshing. Ages 8 — 12. (Aug.)” Publisher’s Weekly
Publisher’s Weekly reviews Tricia Springstubb’s What Happened on Fox Street so very nicely. What more could I add? This novel is yet another middle-grade fiction of 2010 that deals with the loss of a parent. Mo’s mother didn’t die of cancer last year, but her absence is still strongly felt. Mo can’t keep up with her sister (whose half her age) and is tired of trying, wishing her father were more available. Mercedes’ mother married after having raised her alone for years, so the best friend is dealing with the change in lifestyle, as well as another dramatic turn from Fox Street history. And what about her grandmother’s declining health? “Mo’s journey isn’t particularly action packed,” but there is a lot going on. The charm is that it doesn’t feel too weighty. If the reader chooses to identify and delve, they could. Otherwise, the reader will be moved and entertained by the glimpse of that summer of Fox Street.
Mo finds a great deal of her identity in Fox Street, a move would signify a significant change. But as we know and Mo finds slammed home, some changes are out of our hands; and some are. Mercedes is also working through her own signifiers, having changed from eking to wealth, single-parent to two, etc. The relationships in What Happened on Fox Street look to questions of how do we bind ourselves to each other, weather out the changes. What Happened on Fox Street is a lovely story about finding ourselves, each other, and community. It is about change, both the usual and unusual sort. The fox comes to represent hope, that magic and miracle can still happen. That that which came before still exists. That Mo isn’t alone in the increasing uncertainty that surrounds her. She needs proof that what she knows to be true is.
The story comes to a head as a rainstorm breaks upon the drought-ridden landscape. And then the sun comes out, though not into an easy conclusion. What Happened on Fox Street remains marvelously consistent throughout. While the book is hardly fluff, it doesn’t slug through one drama into the next, it keeps a fairly even keel. much is due to how Springstubb invites realist portraiture with a charming affect. Her original set of characters create an interest that invests the reader in the outcome, daily and overarching. They are flawed and quirky and believable. As I read What Happened on Fox Street, I thought of Susan Patron’s Lucky, Lauren Child’s Clarice Bean, and Kate DiCamillo’s Opal (Because of Winn Dixie); which is excellent company indeed. They share similar sensibilities and characters with whom you want to spend more time. I heard a rumor that there will be a sequel? I certainly hope so.
Tricia Sptringstubb is a storyteller I look forward to hearing more from. The writing is superb. You see none of the sweat, only the shine; the kind of effort that would easily go unnoticed if the book didn’t stand out so much from its peers.
I highly recommend this read. Girls and boys alike.