A good read is a given when Kimberly Willis Holt produces a new book. Her books range from a rollicking picture book with questionable table manners in Dinner with the Highbrows, to the Piper Reed series channeling her Navy brat roots, to the mind-stirring upper middle grade national book award winnerWhen Zachary Beaver Came to Town where readers sense a real person behind the “fattest boy in the world.”
In her newest book, The Lost Boy’s Gift, she begins with the premise that there are places you want to go, places you want to leave, and places you want to stay. She places nine-year-old Daniel in the place of not wanting to leave, but having no choice in the matter. His parents’ divorce necessitates a move with his mother to a new smaller place on While-a-Way lane.
Daniel’s adjustment to his new place involves an intergenerational new set of neighbors and a bit of magical realism. His older neighbor, Tilda Butter, remembers her own uprooting as a child and has the gift of being able to converse with creatures including spiders and snakes. Dewey Wonder, the mailman, doesn’t talk to animals, but he does read postcards and take advantage of a hopscotch on the way back to his mail jeep. Then there is the environmentalist Lemonade Girl who is going to save the world one lemonade at a time. Paying attention brings Daniel to acceptance of his own gift, to intergenerational friendships, and to appreciation of both of his parents. As always, Kimberly has written a story worth the time to read, adding a bit of magical realism that is not usual in her books.
In the interest of transparency, I have been friends with Kimberly since Zachary Beaver showed up, but I would never recommend a book – even by a friend – that I did not think my readers would enjoy. I must also mention that Part of Me remains my personal favorite of her books, but that may be because I relate closely to its protagonist.