My husband’s grandmother loved cats, particularly the kind that slunk up to the bowl outside her kitchen door, where she scraped her dinner scraps. She lived in the same house in a quiet Maine town for seven decades, feeding the neighborhood felines until well past the age of 100, when she died peacefully at home.
So, when award-winning Portland author Gail Donovan mailed me a review copy of her just-released middle grade novel, Sparrow Being Sparrow, I was delighted by the antics of Sparrow Robinson, a high-spirited fourth-grader who sets out to find homes for her elderly neighbor’s seven cats when she is no longer able to care for them.
After moving to the fictional town of Eastbrook, Sparrow and her family rent half a duplex from Mrs. LaRose, their French-speaking neighbor who lives next door with her furry friends. Sparrow loves cats and wants one of her own. So, when a fall sends Mrs. LaRose to the hospital, Sparrow cares for the cats – telling her new school friends that the cats belong to her!
“What are their names?” asks a classmate, Paloma.
“Mrs. Moon, Midnight, Tux, Pierre, Paulette, Marmalade, and Kitty Gray,” Sparrow says, reflecting to herself, “That was kind of like the truth… because those were their real names.”
When Sparrow’s friends discover that she is “a great big liar,” Sparrow must make amends, while trying not to get carried away by her overly eager instincts. Along the way, Sparrow learns what it means to be a good friend and neighbor.
As someone who was gifted in storytelling, I could easily relate to Sparrow’s predicament. To impress my friends, I often fabricated stories in elementary school, including one that landed me in the principal’s office. While my mom drove me to my classmate’s house to apologize, Sparrow’s parents help her work out her mistakes on her own. Getting involved in the local church also helps Sparrow connect with her community and find a home for Mrs. Moon, her favorite cat.
A Junior Library Guild selection and the recipient of a starred review from Publishers Weekly, Sparrow Being Sparrow is sure to delight readers of all ages with its charm, warmth and humor. Amazon also featured the book as a “Best Book of July for ages 6-8,” although the book will easily interest older readers as well.
In celebration of the book’s release, Donovan is scheduled to read from her book this Saturday, July 29th, from 2:00-3:00 p.m. at the Portland Public Library’s downtown location at 5 Monument Square in Portland. Joining her, will be Brunswick children’s author Charlotte Agell, along with a host of adoptable kittens from Midcoast Humane. Copies of Sparrow Being Sparrow will also be available to purchase. This free event is part of the library’s 2023 Summer Reading Program.
In honor of animals and books and storytellers everywhere, I highly recommend this book. And what could be more enjoyable than bringing home a furry feline to cuddle while you read it?
Meadow Rue Merrill is the author of the award-winning memoir, Redeeming Ruth, and of the Lantern Hill Farm picture book series, celebrating the holidays with activities that build children’s faith. She writes and reads in a little house in the big woods of Midcoast Maine. Connect at: meadowrue.com