The Great Unexpected

The Great Unexpected

4.3 25
by Sharon Creech

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From Newbery Medal winner and bestselling author Sharon Creech comes a grand, sweeping yarn that is a celebration of the great and unexpected gifts of love, friendship, and forgiveness. With a starred review from Kirkus Reviews calling it an "enchanting tale to treasure," The Great Unexpected captures the heart and the imagination.


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From Newbery Medal winner and bestselling author Sharon Creech comes a grand, sweeping yarn that is a celebration of the great and unexpected gifts of love, friendship, and forgiveness. With a starred review from Kirkus Reviews calling it an "enchanting tale to treasure," The Great Unexpected captures the heart and the imagination.

Humorous and heartfelt, this is a story of pairs—of young Naomi and Lizzie, both orphans in present-day Blackbird Tree, USA, and of Sybil and Nula, grown-up sisters from faraway Rook's Orchard, Ireland, who have become estranged.

Young Naomi Deane is brimming with curiosity and her best friend, Lizzie Scatterding, could talk the ears off a cornfield. Naomi has a knack for being around when trouble happens. She knows all the peculiar people in town—like Crazy Cora and Witch Wiggins. But then, one day, a boy drops out of a tree. Just like that. A strangely charming Finn boy. And then the Dingle Dangle man appears, asking all kinds of questions. Curious surprises are revealed—three locked trunks, a pair of rooks, a crooked bridge, and that boy—and soon Naomi and Lizzie find their lives changed forever.

As two worlds are woven together, Creech reveals that hearts can be mended and that there is indeed a gossamer thread that connects us all.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review
How can life be so painful yet so beautiful? How can we make sense of what we feel? Many of the most beloved children's books ask these questions by treading lightly on reality, allowing young readers to wade ankle-deep in the joys and agonies of being human without sinking into existential muck. The Great Unexpected does just that…Creech…has a deft touch…
—Elizabeth Weil
Publishers Weekly
In a story that is part folktale, part mystery, and part comedy, Newbery Medalist Creech (Walk Two Moons) traces a series of strange events, beginning with a boy’s fall from a tree, which is witnessed by an orphan named Naomi and her friend Lizzie. The boy, Finn, might be part of the Dimmens clan, who live up on Black Dog Night Hill, or his appearance might be more ethereal in nature. In alternating chapters, readers are whisked between two evocative locations: Naomi’s town of Blackbird Tree and an impressive Irish estate owned by an ailing mystery novel buff. Neighbors, strangers, and a collection of odd artifacts are all part of a puzzle Naomi tries to solve—and readers will be working just as hard to do so. The fun that drives the book forward derives from Naomi’s plainspoken narration (her barely concealed jealousy over Lizzie’s interactions with Finn is especially well-done), along with uncovering the surprising connections between characters and wondering whether magic is at the root of the baffling occurrences. Ages 8–12. Agent: Amy Berkower, Writers House. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Heather Robertson Mason
Is it possible to discover where you came from when you have no memories of it at all? Is it possible for stories to separate and reconnect with others in a different time? Is it possible to be loved, to be normal, to be part of something bigger, when you are an orphan and alone? Lizzie and Naomi are two orphans living in the tiny town of Blackbird Tree. They know everyone, both the well-respected townspeople and the peculiar outsiders. However, neither one expected what would happen when the boy fell out of to the town's namesake tree. Who he is and where he came from are a complete mystery, but both girls are feeling the pull of new love, along with the pressing of unanswered questions about their past. Added to the mix is the Dingle Dangle man poking around town and asking questions that no one wants to explain or answer. Clues abound in this story, but the puzzle they are to solve is never clear. Adding to the mystery is the secondary storyline of two elderly friends whose conversations pop in every couple of chapters with the only obvious connection being the Dingle Dangle man. While this book is difficult to understand when looking at traditional plot structure, the two girls' characters are so beautifully drawn that the story is a delight to read. The minor characters are all tragic sorts who have faced loss in its many forms, yet they seem to keep the book moving to its positive conclusion. You cannot read this book like a novel; you read it like a poem. Untraditional, yes, but it is definitely worth reading. Reviewer: Heather Robertson Mason
Kirkus Reviews
When Finn falls out of a tree and into the life of Naomi, he brings more than a touch of Ireland's magic. Naomi and her friend, Lizzie Scatterding, are both foster children living in the quiet town of Blackbird Tree. Life takes on a mysterious air when Finn boy and the Dangle Doodle man show up in a town that's already inhabited by such characters as Witch Wiggins and Crazy Cora. Naomi carries the terrible scars, internal and on her arm, of her father's death and a dog's attack. Her guardian parents each share their hearts; Nula remembers privation and her estranged family in Ireland, and Joe teaches Naomi to dream and fly high into the clouds for inner peace. In a parallel story across the sea in Ireland, two women talk of times past, lost families and setting things right. Creech, a Newbery Award–winning author, deftly weaves a multi-layered story in which past and present thread their way around Naomi the romantic and Lizzie the singer. With a Finn boy for each generation, there's joy in the air and in the reading. An enchanting tale to treasure in which ordinary folk find fairies' gold, run across crooked bridges and mend their broken hearts. (Fiction. 8-12)
School Library Journal
Gr 5–7—After an epigraph, prologue, and first chapter that increasingly pull readers in deeper and deeper, The Great Unexpected-part realistic fiction, part mystery, and part ghost story-disappoints. In the small, probably Southern town of Blackbird Tree, orphaned 12-year-old Naomi Deane receives a whack on the head as an inert boy tumbles down from a tree. Joined by her motormouth friend, Lizzie Scatterding, she pronounces the boy "dead," but he soon sits up and starts asking questions in a strange accent-clearly, he's not from around there. Naomi Deane's narration constitutes the bulk of the story, but every third or fourth chapter takes place "Across the Ocean" in a grand Irish estate, where readers follow the antics of elderly companions Mrs. Kavanagh and Miss Pilpenny. Creech gradually reveals the connections between the two story lines; clues appear in appropriately small doses that will appeal to young detectives. But a confusing narrative style makes the book hard to follow. Instead of consistently using a progressive or episodic structure for either plotline, Creech alternates between the two, which places readers in an uncomfortably disorienting position upon beginning each chapter: Does this start where we left off, or have several weeks passed? Overuse of quirky and alliterative names such as "the dapper Dingle Dangle man," the "dim Dimmenses," "Crazy Cora," and "Witch Wiggins" distracts from the story. For better-told small-town adventures and rich language, try Richard Peck's A Long Way from Chicago (Dial, 1998) or Susan Patron's The Higher Power of Lucky (S & S, 2006).—Allison Bruce, The Berkeley Carrol School, Brooklyn, NY

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.88(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)
720L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Sharon Creech has written twenty books for young people and is published in over twenty languages. Her books have received awards in both the U.S. and abroad, including the Newbery Medal for Walk Two Moons, the Newbery Honor for The Wanderer, and Great Britain’s Carnegie Medal for Ruby Holler.

Before beginning her writing career, Sharon Creech taught English for fifteen years in England and Switzerland. She and her husband now live in Maine, “lured there by our grandchildren,” Creech says. “Moo was inspired by our mutual love of Maine and by our granddaughter’s involvement in a local 4-H program. We have all been enchanted with the charms of cows.”

Brief Biography

Pennington, New Jersey
Date of Birth:
July 29, 1945
Place of Birth:
Cleveland, Ohio
B.A., Hiram College, 1967; M.A., George Mason University, 1978

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