Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews



Patricia MacLachlan
For ages 8 to 11
Random House, 2009   ISBN: 978-0440411451

On the last day of the summer season Larkin and her family, their friends and neighbors, all go down to the dock to say goodbye to the last of the summer visitors. It is a tradition that they all participate in every year. This year, when they get home, something is waiting for them in the driveway; it is a baby in a basket. There is a note with the baby telling them that the baby is called Sophie and that she is almost a year old. The mother cannot take care of her child right now and has left Sophie with Larkin’s family because she knows “she will be safe with you.” The mother promises that she will be back for Sophie “one day.”

Larkin’s father wants to call the police, but his wife Lily does not. A discussion ensues in the house and when it is over Mama comes out and announces that Sophie will be staying for a while. Papa warns Larkin not to grow to love Sophie because one day her mother will be coming for her.

Not long ago Larkin, Mama, Papa and Byrd, Larkin’s grandmother, suffered a terrible loss when Larkin’s little brother died a day after he was born. Larkin never saw him and he was buried without a name. No one talks about the baby and Mama and Papa’s silence has caused Larkin so much hurt and anger. Why won’t people talk about him? Why wasn’t he even given a name? Why are Mama and Papa keeping her at a distance?

In spite of the warnings not to get attached, everyone in the family and beyond grow to love Sophie. The little girl starts to thaw the pain that has held Larkin, Mama, and Papa in its grip. Slowly but surely her presence starts the process of healing, even though everyone knows that Sophie’s mother could return at any time to reclaim her. They choose to enjoy Sophie’s sweet ways and love while they can.

Then Sophie’s mother returns, and what follows brings about powerful change for everyone.

This remarkable story about loss, love, healing, and the power of words will resonate with readers of all ages. There is no doubt that Patricia MacLachlan is one of the most extraordinary children’s book writers there is.