Mo Wren, Lost and Found by Tricia Springstubb

Cindy: Do you mind if I gush? I’ve fallen in love with the Wren family. I don’t get to read as many children’s books as I do middle school and teen books so I missed What Happened on Fox Street, the prequel to Mo Wren, Lost and Found (Harper/Balzer & Bray 2011). Readers can easily start here, but like me, they will be driven back to read the first one. Mo is almost eleven and lives with her father and younger sister, Dottie. Mo loves Fox Street and the people who live there and is devastated when her father sells their house and moves them to the other side of their small Ohio town to move in above a closed restaurant that he plans to renovate and reopen as “The Wren House.” The usual emotions in a household move and starting a new school are all in evidence by one Wren family member or another. Dottie is thrilled with her new school, new friends, and her new pet, Handsome, a lizard. Mr. Wren is nervous and excited about his new venture and the opportunity to start fresh. And Mo? She goes through many stages of grief: denial, anger, loneliness before she find her place in the new neighborhood. The theme of lost and found permeates the story in many ways in addition to the tangible (where could that lizard have disappeared to?) As much as I love the Wrens, it is the setting and secondary characters that won my heart as well. There’s Da, Mo’s best friend’ grandmother who is losing her independence and Carmella who runs the local laundromat while also “running” the neighborhood by caring for its residents and supplying the just-in-time perfect item from the Lost & Found when someone needs it. They are not alone, and the cast builds as the story continues and we know we will hear more from these new friends in the next installment. This story would make a great class read-aloud, or even a parent-child read aloud. There are many child-centric poignant and humorous moments, but plenty of lines that the adult reader will appreciate in a different way. Like this one, a description of one moment in the laundromat:

An old couple folded sheets together, stepping close and then apart as if doing a dance they knew by heart.

This is a series that I hope continues for many more books. Now, excuse me while I go track down the first book. I want to be ready for the next sequel.

Lynn: I am definitely in agreement with Cindy on this charming book.  I don’t know what planet I was on last year to have missed the first book but I am tracking it down the minute Midwinter is done.  There is so much I love about this book from the lovely language and images that sit so strongly in the reader’s mind to the vivid characters that feel like our own neighbors.  Here are a few examples of the delicious descriptive language:

“…her sister’s fuzzy apricot of a cheek.” “Mo and this tree had known each other so long, its trunk and her spine were friends. “The sounds of E 213th St. bumped against the glass trying to get in.”

There are some lovely child-centered themes here from the impact of change to identity.  Mo, who has seen herself as responsible for her father and little sister, feels adrift when her Dad becomes more involved on the home front and Dottie begins to grow up and need her less.  “Your job, “says her father, “is to make new friends and work hard in school…In other words be normal growing girls.”  Springstubb clearly respects her young readers and skillfully shows us how Mo struggles with this concept, trying to discover who she is as the family builds a new life in a new place.  Mo, and all the characters, are painted with a sweet humorous insight that rings true and strong.  Here’s hoping there are many more stories to come.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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