by Patricia Reilly Giff

Sam finds images of the number eleven cropping up in his dreams and in hazy memories... read more

Sam finds images of the number eleven cropping up in his dreams and in hazy memories of his life before coming to stay with his grandfather when he was very small. Now turning eleven, he is obsessed with the need to understand their meaning after spotting the fragment of an old newspaper with the word “missing” next to a picture of a toddler wearing a sweater he knows well—because it was his. Sam adores his grandfather Mack and the rhythm of their lives together. Mack’s two good friends who live and work nearby complete their tight-knit, loving family. Could he really belong to someone else? Sam can’t read well, and he enlists the help of a new girl in his class at school to help in his research. Caroline is witty and smart and doesn’t judge Sam because he can’t read. But her willingness to assist him is dependent upon his agreeing they won’t become friends—her family never stays in one place long enough to make friendship anything other than painful in the end. A class project to build a medieval castle showcases Sam’s considerable woodworking skills but also provides an excuse to spend time with Caroline, his partner, investigating Sam’s ever-more-murky past. But it’s what the two learn about themselves in the present that proves just as important, as each finds a new outlook on personal challenges when need dovetails with desire. Warm and richly realized main and secondary characters distinguish a novel about family and friendship that is imbued with a sense of mystery. (Ages 9–12)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2009

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