Review & Giveaway: Finding Esme by Suzanne Crowley

FINDING ESME
by
SUZANNE CROWLEY
  
Genre: Middle Grade (3-7) / Magical Realism / Family & Loss
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Date of Publication: August 14, 2018
Number of Pages: 288

Scroll down for the giveaway!

After her grandfather died from a heart attack while driving his tractor on Solace Hill, twelve-year-old Esme’s been inextricably drawn to that spot, although her grandmother warns her to stay away. But when she follows her little brother, Bo, and her dog, Old Jack, up the hill while chasing fireflies, she makes an incredible discovery—dinosaur bones peeking out from underneath the abandoned tractor.

The bones must be a message from her grandfather, a connection from beyond the grave. But when word gets out that the farm is hiding something valuable, reporters, researchers, and neighbors arrive in droves. Esme struggles to understand who has her best interests at heart, especially as the memory of her grandfather begins to slip away.

Full of friendship and adventure, and featuring a palpable Texas setting, Finding Esme is a moving and heartfelt story about family, friendship, and learning to deal with loss.

PRAISE & HONORS FOR FINDING ESME:

“Esme is a brave, appealing heroine with the odds stacked against her… Bad blood and layered family secrets drive this story to its ultimately optimistic and satisfying conclusion.” — Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)

“Esme McCauley is a lonely but spirited 12-year-old who feels nothing ever happens to her the way it’s supposed to…A poignant tale for readers who enjoy character-driven realism.” — School Library Journal

“Readers muddling through preteen changes or unstable family lives will identify with Esme’s struggles, but the thrill of discovery will appeal to most.” — Booklist

Texas Library Association 2019 Spirit of Texas (SPOT) reading program selection

 

Every once in a while you read a book and just know that this is the first of many times that you will read it. Finding Esme by Suzanne Crowley is one of these books. I struggle to put into words why that is exactly, but it’s a feeling that came over me when I began reading. I have read a good number of stories with a similar setting, but Crowley’s turn of phrase, character building, and imaginative plot transport you to a completely different place.

But let me backtrack a bit and talk about the cover for a second. I like the unusual use of colors and the distinctive illustration style. I especially like that the cover art ties in with the story while appealing to its intended audience. However, I feel like the artwork is a shade too juvenile for the story within. This book was like a mash up of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt, and My Daniel by Pam Conrad. If you have read any of those books, you know that they deal with tough subject matter and they all have pretty somber cover art to match. But I get it. Kids are more excited to pick up a pretty book in hues of purple, orange, and green; but I think it disguises a very sophisticated story.

If you’ve gotten this far without reading any synopses of the book, then proceed directly to your own copy and enjoy reading one of the best coming of age books ever. There’s a whimsy of adventure that is tethered to the earth by the hardships of the time and the personal struggles of Esme. I found it fascinating how a supernatural gift could be grave one moment and then later provide levity to another situation. I don’t know if it’s intentional, but there’s a lot of duality at play. Characters that flip between love and hate, a home that is a safe harbor one day and a cage the next, the desire to find the truth replaced by stubborn denial. And that’s just a handful that I came up with on the fly. This is the sort of book that should be studied in a youth literature class.

Funny coincidence that I had to point out, Crowley dedicates the book to her father, whose last name is Carlisle. Esme and Carlisle! [Insert groan here.] I read a lot of YA, what can I say? But seriously, this book is top shelf. Boys and girls alike will take something special from this book. And old fogies like myself will add this to our collection of classics.

Suzanne Crowley is the author of two acclaimed novels for young readers, The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous and The Stolen One. The author, who is also a miniaturist and dollhouse collector whose work has graced the covers of magazines worldwide, was born in a small town in Texas and lives in Southlake, Texas. When not hugging her dog or imbibing in chocolate, she can often be found taking a nap.
 

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———————————–
GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!
TWO READERS EACH WIN A SIGNED COPY OF FINDING ESME, TWO CANDLES, BOOKMARKS, FUN FACT CARDS, AND A PEN!
February 11-21, 2020

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1 Comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Lone Star Book Blog Tours, Giveaway

One response to “Review & Giveaway: Finding Esme by Suzanne Crowley

  1. As always, an insightful and excellent review. I didn’t catch the Carlisle / Esme thing, but I listened and maybe the dedication wasn’t read aloud… loved this book and will get it in print and re-read it for sure.

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