Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord, a nominee for the 2012-13 South Carolina Children’s Book Award, is one of the fastest reads I’ve had in a while. I finished this book in just a couple of hours. Despite its length, however, Touch Blue packed an emotional wallop. The main character, eleven-year-old Tess, has a perfectly realistic voice, and, even though some readers, especially in South Carolina, will be unable to relate to the setting of this book (an island off the coast of Maine), they will find a relatable character in Tess.
In order to keep their island school from closing–and losing many of the island’s inhabitants to the mainland–some of the residents of Bethsaida Island agree to take in foster children to increase enrollment at the school. Tess’ family is one of those taking in a new kid.
As Tess and her little sister Libby eagerly await the arrival of thirteen-year-old Aaron, Tess is filled with visions of what it will be like to have an older brother. She’s sure that it will be great, and she’s excited to have someone close to her age around. She’s not, however, prepared for the emotional baggage that Aaron brings with him. He’s justifiably moody and unsure of his new surroundings, and he resists all of Tess’ attempts to get closer to him.
Tess tries everything she can think of to help Aaron feel like he belongs, including a few things thought to bring good luck (like touching something blue to make a wish come true). Gradually, Aaron feels more comfortable on the island–he plays his trumpet in the July 4th celebration, he helps Tess restore her boat, and he goes lobster-trapping with Tess and her Dad–but Tess knows that he’s holding back. Aaron misses his mom, and he wants to get back to her. Tess tries to convince Aaron that he belongs with her family, but it may take something drastic to make him believe he’s important to them.
Will Tess be able to help Aaron accept his new life and family, or will all of her wishing leave her with nothing? Read Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord to find out.
I really enjoyed this book, and I plan to recommend it to all of my students in 3rd through 5th grades. Middle grade readers may enjoy it as well. I’m hoping that my students will be interested in the books that Tess alludes to throughout Touch Blue: The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson, Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis, and Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. I love how Tess relates her relationship with Aaron to those of the characters in these beloved books.
If you’re looking for a super-fast, moving, and heart-warming summer read, I highly recommend Touch Blue. At its core, it is a story about what it means to truly belong and how a person creates his or her own luck. This book is perfect for anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider–and who hasn’t?
For more information on this book and others by Cynthia Lord, visit http://www.cynthialord.com/.