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after Fox Street

Mo Wren, Lost and Found by Tricia Springstubb

Illustrations by Heather Ross.

Balzer+Bray, 2011

Hardcover, 256 pages. Juvenile Fiction (ages 8-12)

This is the story of what happened after Fox Street.

Mo Wren knew that eventually she, her dad, and her sister, Wild Child Dottie, would have to move from beloved Fox Street. She just never expected it to happen so soon.

At the Wrens’ new place, things are very different. The name of the street—East 213th—has absolutely zero magic. And there’s no Mrs. Petrone to cut her hair, no Pi Baggott to teach her how to skateboard, no Green Kingdom to explore. She’s having trouble fitting in at her new school and spending a lot of time using the corner bus shelter for her Thinking Spot. Worst of all, Mo discovers that the ramshackle restaurant Mr. Wren bought is cursed. Only Dottie, with her new friends and pet lizard, Handsome, is doing the dance of joy.

For the first time in her life, Mo feels lost and out of place. It’s going to take a boy who tells whoppers, a Laundromat with a mysterious owner, a freak blizzard, and some courage to help her find her way home for good.

Feeling displaced? Tricia Springstubb has the story for you in this sequel to the sweet debut What Happened on Fox Street. Mo has to move, and like many a moving story, the adjustments are hard. And she isn’t the only one who was going to miss Fox Street. (sigh). Fortunately, Springstubb creates the old kind of charm in a new kind of place. Maybe change can be for the better.

With a protagonist who thinks, and who worries, the moving is going to be especially dramatic, thus she will be a great narrator–a great voice for the worries that haunt us. How do we find our way around, make new friends, interact with the old friends, finesse the changes with family members who are changing, too, and survive a curse. Okay, the curse is more of the mysterious twist that moves the plot, and a brilliant explanation as to why things just can’t seem to go right—because we are all questioning Mr. Wren’s decision-making. But sometimes following dreams are not easy, whether they are yours or someone else’s.

The widower Mr. Wren was an absent sort in the first book, he continues to be so in this second novel as he struggles to fulfill the dream of becoming a successful restaurant owner. But in What Happened on Fox Street, Mo had her community to keep an eye out for her and her younger sister Dottie, for whom Mo is oft made responsible. His leaving Mo alone (and forgetting her once) is horribly problematic in Mo Wren, Lost and Found. He is striving to provide a life where she can have the opportunity to be a little girl, to be carefree. We just have to hope they all survive it. We have to hope that Mo again finds herself capable.

There are all sorts of lost objects and lost people and lost feelings and lost memories to be found. This is an ambitious little novel and there were moments I wondered if there was a little too much. We learn people move on. Change is hard but sometimes necessary and for a number of reasons. Sometimes we need to let things go for the sake of another person, to give someone else an opportunity (Fox Street, Parenting roles). New friends await, and could use the new face. And “Fortune favors the brave,” Mo and Da, the elderly neighbor from Fox Street, remind themselves rather determinedly.

As those people and objects that always held center for Mo Wren shift out from under her, we have Dottie who not only seems to be just fine, she’s thriving. Dottie is growing up to be quite capable and wise herself. But she has Mo. All Mo has to do is keep herself together, and find some new anchors, or perhaps remember some old ones. Maybe her dad will prove to be there for her after all? Maybe she will find a community of people she can depend on, a new extended family on East 213th.

Mo’s friend Mercedes is back, and is as issue-laden and self-absorbed with it as in the past book. Their dynamic is unusual in novels, though not unfamiliar in life; which is nice, even as it is uncomfortable. Besides being the BFF, Mercedes provides another perspective, another facet to this difficulty that is change—again. Pi Baggott reappears and is sweet and Mo is all aflutter. Yet there is an all-too-convenient (though not unrealistic) turn to accompany the other turns that facilitate Mo’s ability to move on. And while it is fantastic that the story doesn’t slough off Fox Street too easily, East 213th has a story and a character to develop as well. Mo and novel must move on. And the pacing in the progression of this move is good. As to how one speaks to the balance, it depends on the Reader. However, I don’t think the young reader will be overwhelmed; the thinking one might. We are meant to be overwhelmed. The tension is in the weight and the compounding of multiple anxieties. And just when we think it could all go right—finally!—no! Oh no!

Does Mo Wren find everything she needs, all she’s lost? Fortune does favor the brave–and bravery is needed. Because, in the end, Change is good. It’s necessary. Everyone benefits from the opportunity it brings in some form or another. Mo Wren, Lost and Found finds its optimism, its hope. Not that it was ever truly lost, as with many things, it just went missing for awhile.

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Mo Wren, Lost and Found was a good sequel. It reflected back upon the first story in small ways, and was consistent with characters and voice, but Springstubb definitely worked to present a story that could be read on its own. The writing is good. As in the first novel, the clever metaphors are inspiring; a smile for the Reader. The characters, whether human, object, place, or lizard, feel original, and the eccentricities are charming. This is good middle-grade fiction. I can see openings for another installment. I liked What Happened on Fox Street a lot, and I enjoyed Mo Wren, Lost and Found, but I am not eager for another. While good, it was exhausting. I hope Springstubb is working on a new project, an other new project.

Mo Wren, Lost in Found should find connection with eldest children, more likely girls, the serious-minded, and those needing to be more serious-minded; for middle-grade, for anyone who has moved or will move or undergo a big change: though the end message is optimistic, Springstubb commiserates, it isn’t nor will it be easy [it’s refreshing that way].

Regardless of having read the final book in Lucky’s Hard Pan trilogy by Susan Patron recently, the series would have still come to mind (but please, for the sake of fairness, do not read these two series close together). Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn Dixie, Lauren Child’s inimitable Clarice Bean books, Rita Garcia-Williams’ One Crazy Summer, Belle Teal by Ann M. Martin, and How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O’Connor come to mind as well. If you enjoyed What Happened on Fox Street and Mo Wren, Lost and Found, keep an eye out for these reads—even if you didn’t, you should anyway.

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my review of What Happened on Fox Street. Aforementioned other reads should have reviews linked on my “Books (remarked)” page, if you are curious.


{book} fox street

7883148What Happened on Fox Street by Tricia Springstubb

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.

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* two such reviews: Welcome to my Tweendom’s review . Shelf Elf’s review .

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