How do you grow a miracle?
For the record, this is not the question Mr. Neely is looking for when he says everyone in class must answer an important question using the scientific method. But Natalie's botanist mother is suffering from depression, so this is The Question that's important to Natalie. When Mr. Neely suggests that she enter an egg drop competition, Natalie has hope.
Eggs are breakable. Hope is not.
Natalie has a secret plan for the prize money. She's going to fly her mother to see the Cobalt Blue Orchids--flowers that survive against impossible odds. The magical flowers are sure to inspire her mother to love life again. Because when parents are breakable, it's up to kids to save them, right?
There aren't many books for the middle grade group that does what this book does. At it's heart it's a book about family and growing up. Natalie's family is in a crisis. Her mom is sick. But it's not a sickness that involves hospitals, doctors and medicine. It's not the kind of sickness that others understand. Her mom is severely depressed - enough to keep her in bed and away from work. Natalie is coping, on the surface, but deeper down the cracks are forming. As with most kids, she doesn't completely understand what is happening and why. And like what happens a lot - the adults around her think they're helping but they aren't. It's through a science project that Natalie starts to sort through her reaction and understanding of her mother. I liked how the project became the instrument. I think for many kids that would be realistic. They deal with a serious issue through something else.
I liked Natalie. Her reaction to things seemed realistic for the most part. I do wonder if, as a 7th grader, if she would've went a bit more snarky. But I do know that many 7th graders would be just like her. I also liked how she didn't back away from everything and ignore it. She found ways to deal whether that was through her science notebook or outright saying something to her dad. She failed, struggled but stubbornly dug in. I liked that.
The ending was good. I felt it ended on a positive note, but not everything was sunshine and flowers. It wasn't unrealistic. You knew there was hope for Natalie and her family, but you also knew it wasn't going to be an easy road.
Library Thoughts: I would get this for the media center. I think more kids are see depression in their family or the families of their friends, so I think it's an important topic to represent.
Final Thought: Shows in a simple way how depression affects a family in a realistic way that would be good for middle schoolers.
About the author
TAE KELLER grew up in Honolulu, where she wrote stories, ate Spam musubis, and participated in her school’s egg drop competition. (She did not win.) After graduating from Bryn Mawr College, she moved to New York City to work in publishing, and she now has a very stubborn Yorkie and a multitude of books as roommates.