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Book Review: What Happened on Fox Street, by Tricia Springstubb


Mo lives on Fox Street with her dad and little sister, the Wild Child. Their house is in the middle of the block—right where a heart would be, if the street were a person. Fox Street has everything: a piano player, a fix-it man, the city's best burrito makers, a woman who cuts Mo's hair just right, not to mention a certain boy who wants to teach her how to skateboard. There's even a mean, spooky old lady, if ringing doorbells and running away, or leaving dead mice in mailboxes, is your idea of fun. Summers are Mo's favorite time, because her best friend, Mercedes, comes to stay.

Most important, though, Fox Street is where all Mo's memories of her mother live. The idea of anything changing on Fox Street is unimaginable—until it isn't.

This is the story of one unforgettable summer—a summer of alarming letters, mysterious errands, and surprising revelations—and how a tuft of bright red fur gives Mo the courage she needs. 

One thing that amazes me about middle grade and young adult fiction is how in the end, no matter how unique the stories, we're all writing about the same things. It's the feeling I get when I consider all the music in the word, all composed from the same twelve notes. Change, friendships, loss, hope, romance – but so many different characters with different stories told in different ways.

What Happened on Fox Street by Tricia Springstubb explores all of these emotions from the point of view of a sweet, thoughtful, and sometimes sad girl named Mo. Everything in Mo's life – her beloved street, her neighbors, her best friend – is changing, and Mo does her best to cling to the familiar with heartbreaking determination.

Not a name is wasted in this story; from Mo's own family, to her friends and quirky neighbors, each character is so well-developed that by the last scene I felt I'd met them. And The Wild Child – otherwise known as Dottie, Mo's little sister who's been rather spoiled by the neighbors since the death of the girls' mother – may just be one of my most favorite characters ever. How can you not love a little girl who holds funerals for houseflies and creates rose gardens out of beer bottles? Every other line of Dottie dialogue had me cracking up.

Also not to be overlooked is the writing.

"Being a thinker was a various thing. Sometimes you felt like a turtle, with a nice, private built-in place to shelter. Other times, it was like having a bucket stuck on your head, making the world clang and echo and never stop."

Fox Street is not a long story, but each sentence is crafted with so much care, every word meaningful. Even something as simple as Mo hearing the story of her first haircut made me tear up, just in the way it was told. This is a beautiful novel, highly recommended both for ravenous middle grade readers and those interested in checking out books for this age level.
Michelle Schusterman

Michelle writes books for kids, screenplays for a tv/film production company, and music for anyone who'd buy a "groove matters" bumper sticker. She lives in New York City with her husband (and band mate) and their chocolate lab (who is more of a vocalist). She is the author of middle grade series I Heart Band - 2014, and The Kat Sinclair Files - 2015 (both from Grosset).

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Item Reviewed: Book Review: What Happened on Fox Street, by Tricia Springstubb Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Michelle Schusterman