Booklist (starred review)
“With tender observations and sensory details, Henkes creates a memorable young individual whose arcadian growing up is authentic and pitch-perfect.”
The Horn Book
“Alice balances between familiarity and novelty, coziness and independence, self-centeredness and altruismthe balance beam of turning ten. . . . A fully realized, respectful portrait of a childhood milestone.”
New York Times
“Henkes knows that Alice, like many girls her age, carries plenty of things in her mindand her heartthat she seldom speaks of. She mulls them over privately, and in Henkes’s hands, eloquently.”
Ann M. Martin
Henkes perfectly captures Alice's angst as she spins between the little-girlhood she's leaving behind and the adolescence that looms in front of her, and he expertly reveals introspective Alice's musings. Henkes knows that Alice, like many girls her age, carries plenty of things in her mindand her heartthat she seldom speaks of. She mulls them over privately, and in Henkes's hands, eloquently.
The New York Times
Many contemporary kids' novels are so packed with external action that they offer few glimpses of the quieter but no less dramatic process of individuation, of a child becoming an "I"…Henkes carefully attends to such moments, grounding them in small, sensuous details…As finely shaded as its titular shell, this novel engages the mind and heart.
The Washington Post
In this introspective story about a child's search for a rare shell, Henkes (Bird Lake Moon) again displays his ability to find profound meaning in ordinary events. Every year Alice Rice and her parents take a trip to Florida's Sanibel Island, but this year things are different. Some of the people Alice is looking forward to seeing are missing, and the neighboring cabin usually rented to a fun artist from New York is now occupied by a friend of Alice's mother, her new boyfriend, and his moody and disruptive six-year-old daughter. Swallowing her disappointment, Alice still believes that her vacation will be a success if only she can find the rare shell she most covets, the junonia ("After all, she was going to be ten. Finding a junonia would be the perfect gift"). Like her disappointments, Alice's discoveries aren't what she expects, but her understanding of people—both old friends and new acquaintances—deepens during the process. Readers will empathize with Alice's frustrations and relish her moments of joy. Images of the beach and the moving, meaningful interactions between characters will linger with readers. Ages 8�12. (June)
"With tender observations and sensory details, Henkes creates a memorable young individual whose arcadian growing up is authentic and pitch-perfect."
Children's Literature - Sharon Salluzzo
Alice Rice's family stayed in the same cottage and saw the same people every year on their annual February vacation to Sanibel Island, Florida. Alice hoped this would be the best year ever, for she would be celebrating her tenth birthday. It is a special birthdaytwo digits. She was looking forward to seeing her once-a-year friends and hoped to find a rare and hard-to-find seashell, a junonia. Upon her arrival, Alice learns that Helen Blair, who always stayed in the cottage next door, is snowed in back in NYC, the Wishmeiers' grandchildren had too much schoolwork and couldn't come visit this year and her mother's friend Kate, who always stayed in the Rice's cottage, would be staying in Helen's cottage with a new boyfriend and his daughter, Mallory. It was bad enough that Alice had to share Kate. What was worse, however, was Mallory's behavior. When one of her gelato spoons is missing after the party, Alice accuses Mallory of stealing it. Henkes' secondary characters are always so well drawn, and this is no exception. Alice's parents are the parents all children would like to have: loving, supportive, and steady. Alice learns some important life lessons. Situations change for people, often beyond their control, and it is important to make the best of it. As we mature, we learn that nothing stays the same forever. Although Alice did find a junonia seashell, it was not the way she expected it would be, and she learns that is okay, too. The blue waterscape scene on the endpapers draws the reader into the book. The blue ink provides continuity through the book, used for the drawings of the seashells and the illustrations at the beginning of the chapters. Each picture gives the reader a preview of what is in the chapter. Both the storyline and the characters are rich with depth. It is a lovely book for a child who is having a very special, double-digit birthday. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo
School Library Journal
Gr 3�6—Alice is planning to celebrate her 10th birthday on her family's annual vacation to Sanibel Island, Florida. This year, her mother's friend is coming with her boyfriend and her six-year-old daughter Mallory who is troubled and impetuous. Stina Nielsen beautifully narrates Kevin Henkes's book (Greenwillow, 2011). She utilizes a variety of vocal inflections and perfectly conveys the variety of adolescent emotions Alice experiences—from the euphoric excitement and anticipation she feels as her family arrives at their rental cottage to the bitter disappointment she experiences upon learning some of the other annual vacationers won't be present this year to her quest for the elusive junonia shell. Listeners will feel that they are walking alongside Alice on her journey.—Cathie Bashaw Morton, Millbrook Central School District, NY
Every year, Alice celebrates her birthday week in February with her parents in a cottage on the beach in Sanibel, far from her snowy Wisconsin home.
This year, as she turns 10, the expected holiday company varies just enough to feel odd and challenging: The neighboring Wishmeiers' grandchildren didn't come; another neighbor is snowbound in New York; "aunt" Kate arrives with a new boyfriend and his six-year-old daughter in tow. Alice's longed-for find, a prized junonia mollusk shell, never quite materializes as expected. Henkes' deceptively economical language is rich and complex, cognizant of the ways that the world of adults reveals itself to children, aware of the emotional weight of objects. The third-person narration offers a sense of depth and story beyond the borders of the novel itself, providing distance enough for readers to draw their own conclusions. The author's own drawings grace the cover and chapter openings; the overall book design is elegant and supremely comfortable for middle-grade readers. An only child surrounded by affection, routine and attention, Alice has the space to realize that life can be an adventure experienced independently, even while held closely by those one loves.
Very few writers have such a keen understanding of the emotional lives of children; here Henkes is at the top of his game. (Fiction. 8-12)