Tricia Springstubb's 'What Happened on Fox Street,' for young readers

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

WHAT HAPPENED ON FOX STREET

By Tricia Springstubb

Balzer + Bray, $15.99. Ages 8-12

Mo Wren, 10, loves the rather ramshackle street where she lives. The houses are "smooshed close together but in a nice way, like friendly people in a crowded elevator." On Fox Street the neighbors look out for motherless Mo, her younger sister, Dottie, and her restless dreamer of a dad. And what endearing, believable neighbors! You can almost feel them breathing on the page: outspoken Da, her best friend's grandmother; "spooky old" Mrs. Steinbott, with her odd gifts; and even a fox whose presence Mo senses in the scrubby woods nearby. Suddenly, though, the "necessary evil" of real estate development looms, and Mo angrily discovers her father's involvement in a shady buyout. How can he destroy their home? Uproot their neighbors? Readers, too, will care what happens to these lovingly drawn characters even as Mo confronts inevitable change. Author Tricia Springstubb also brings to a surprising resolution a number of subplots involving lonely Mrs. Steinbott, the fox and wild-child Dottie. Among today's many angst-ridden tales, this big-hearted novel stands out for its portrayal of connection and kindness. The opposite of "necessary evil," Mo reflects at one point, may be "unnecessary good": small acts of thoughtfulness; the fox's wild beauty; Dottie's buttercup, rose and beer-bottle garden. Mo's example encourages readers of "What Happened on Fox Street" to watch for, and perhaps even create, their own bits of unnecessary good.

-- Mary Quattlebaum


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