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Publishers Weekly Review
Curious, practical narrator Lenny Spink lives in a small apartment in an Ohio suburb with her lovable younger brother, Davey, who can't seem to stop growing, and their single mother, who frets endlessly about his ever-increasing size and how she will afford clothes that fit him. With their father MIA and the smarmy Mr. King worming his way into their mother's life, Lenny and Davey find joy and inspiration in the weekly arrival of new sections for the build-it-at-home encyclopedia set they've won. But even as they dream of exploring the world pictured in those colorful pages, it becomes increasingly clear that Davey's puzzling growth spurts may be dangerous. Though Davey's character at times lacks depth and some may be bothered by the illness-as-literary-construct, Foxlee (A Most Magical Girl) surrounds him with characters who are as endearing as they are flawed: the fiercely protective Lenny, whose sharp tongue belies her longing for stable relationships, and Mrs. Gaspar, their meddlesome but doting neighbor. Themes of family and forgiveness are front and center, but the heart of this story-and the magic of it-is the devotion of these two siblings who together navigate the harsh realities of life and loss. Ages 8-12. Agent: Catherine Drayton, InkWell Management. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal Review
Gr 4-7-Set in Ohio from 1969 to 1977, this novel tells the story of Lenny Spink's family and community, including her mother Cindy, her absentee father, her maternal grandmother Nanny Flora, and her brother Davey, who has a form of gigantism. While Cindy works two jobs to cover necessities, Lenny attends school and Davey stays with Mrs. Gaspar, a Hungarian neighbor who has magical dreams. Lenny and David spend hours poring over an encyclopedia set, dreaming of becoming beetle experts and traveling to Canada, respectively. When Davey starts to experience growing pains, the school nurse encourages Cindy to get a second opinion despite the expense. During Davey's testing and treatment for gigantism, the community unites around him. However, much in Lenny's life remains confusing. She struggles with feeling ashamed of Davey and adrift when he and her mother travel for treatments. Lenny secretly tries to uncover family connections that would lead to her father. Eventually, Lenny learns that people are not always what they look or claim to be. Foxlee's latest is a story of learning how to explore the world with limited resources, the grey areas of human morality, the family that one creates, and grief. Although the struggles that the Spink family faces are often practical in nature, Foxlee's writing is infused with a hint of magic, just as the animals and places that Lenny and Davey read about fill their lives with curiosity and joy. VERDICT This is a well-paced story about perceptions versus reality, and although many readers may deduce the story's end early on, the fully-fledged characters and poignant handling of grief make this a general purchase for most collections.-Liz Anderson, DC Public Library © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
In 1970s small-town Ohio, Lenny Spink's little brother, Davy, begins to grow. And grow. And grow. Almost five feet tall as a first grader, he dwarfs his peers and alarms his mother, who's held a dark heart feeling for Davy since his birth. As a distraction from his perplexing growth, Davy and Lenny devour their new encyclopedia set, which trickles out one volume at a time via mail. Davy's gigantism is discovered to be due to tumors on his pituitary gland, and the growing is abated, or so it seems, until the trend quickly reverses, putting Davy's life in jeopardy. With exquisite detail and heartrending, evocative prose, Foxlee crafts a story that reads like a classic. Lenny is at once ashamed and fiercely protective of her brother. Almost as a form of self-protection, she turns her obsession away from his fraught health and toward a search for family, befriending an elderly woman in town whom she believes, despite evidence to the contrary, to be her great aunt. Though Lenny yearns for the return of her long-lost father, she does not lack for community. Whether it's her neighbor and babysitter, Mrs. Gaspar, or Martha, her mother's point of contact at the encyclopedia company, there are plenty of people who care for her and Davy. An imaginative and surprisingly tender story of the unbreakable bond between siblings.--Jennifer Barnes Copyright 2019 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
Foxlee's (A Most Magical Girl, 2016, etc.) latest is true to its title.Lenny Spink's little brother, Davey, isn't little. At 5 , he's taller than Lenny, a third-graderand he won't stop growing. Her intuitive mother, "made almost entirely out of worries and magic" since her father abandoned them, is rapidly unraveling into pure worry. But when their mother wins them a set of Burrell's Build-It-at-Home Encyclopedia, the siblings build fantastic futures as they learn about farting beetles, golden eagles, and Canada's Great Bear Lake. From 1974 to 1977, their library grows, and Davey's rare tumors worsen. Almost universally adoredand unbelievably cheerful through growing pains, excruciating headaches, and blindnessDavey is primarily a plot device, prompting others' growth and kindness. The growing pains at the book's heart are Lenny's. Prickly, perceptive, and sympathetic, she eloquently narrates her conflicted longing for her father and the metamorphoses in her close bond with Davey. Lenny's anger and "shame of being ashamed" of Davey will resonate with siblings of sick kids, and the rocky but fierce love between Lenny and her mother is heartening. Eclectic secondary characters provide support, including a boy with a birthmark and a stutter; Lenny's convention-defying best friend; and a doting Hungarian babysitter. Lenny and her family and friends are white; her Ohio neighborhood is somewhat diverse.Lyrical and emotionally complex, this coming-of-age tale explores "all the giant things and all the great things" about family and growing upunfortunately, it's done via the "angelic sick kid" trope. (Historical fiction. 9-12) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.