Three Little Words

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Sixteen-year-old Sid barely remembers his birth mother and has no idea who his father was. Raised on an idyllic island by loving foster parents, Sid would be content to stay there forever, drawing, riding his bike, hanging out with his friend Chloe and helping out with Fariza, a newly arrived foster child. But when a stranger named Phil arrives on the island with disturbing news about his birth family—including a troubled younger brother—Sid leaves all that is familiar to help ...

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Three Little Words

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Sixteen-year-old Sid barely remembers his birth mother and has no idea who his father was. Raised on an idyllic island by loving foster parents, Sid would be content to stay there forever, drawing, riding his bike, hanging out with his friend Chloe and helping out with Fariza, a newly arrived foster child. But when a stranger named Phil arrives on the island with disturbing news about his birth family—including a troubled younger brother—Sid leaves all that is familiar to help find the sibling he didn't know existed.

What he discovers is a family fractured by mental illness, but also united by strong bonds of love and compassion. As Sid searches for his brother, gets to know his grandmother, and worries about meeting his biological mother, he realizes that there will never be a simple answer to the question, Am I my brother's keeper?

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In a quiet but moving story about the different forms family can take, 16-year-old Sid has grown up happily with foster parents on an island off Canada’s west coast, an evocative setting that Harvey (Death Benefits) paints with care. Sid is an artistic loner, but his innate kindness is readily apparent: he’s the kind of teen who’s happy to create stories with Fariza, a newly arrived foster child recovering from a family trauma, and whip up éclairs for the annual island potluck. Sid’s idyllic summer takes a turn when a man shows up with the news that Sid’s bipolar biological mother has disappeared—along with a half-brother Sid didn’t know he had. Sid agrees to travel to Victoria, B.C., to meet his grandmother and search for 13-year-old Wain. Sid is a bit too good to be true, and he finds Wain without much incident. Harvey is more interested in Sid’s struggles to make headway with moody, aggressive Wain (who, to Sid’s surprise, is half black) and Sid’s unresolved feelings toward his mother, both of which come to realistically imperfect resolutions. Ages 12–up. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Greta Holt
Sid lives with Megan and Caleb. He was their first foster child, and he has welcomed or put up with the others who have come and gone. Devi, his real mom, left long ago, and Sid has no idea who is father is. Life on a Canadian West Coast island is comfortable, and staying detached works for Sid. He sort of has a girlfriend named Chloe and sort of relates to a string of foster siblings, the newest being Fariza, who is frightened and withdrawn. Suddenly, a stranger named Phil is in the living room, telling Sid that his bipolar mother is sick and off her meds, and that he has a half-brother who is missing. Sid's odyssey begins. He travels with Phil to Victoria, meets his grandmother, and finds his half-brother. Developing a relationship with an angry brother and an emotionally ill mother is more than irritating. Phil longs to go back to his island and his ?real' mother and father. Grandmother Elizabeth begs Phil to let his brother, Wain, come to the island. There will be no escape for Sid from his unwanted family. Harvey creates a tale that examines what "home" means. Sid's quiet voice rings true as he tries to figure out his place in the world. Readers should be cautioned about the language used, especially by the brother, Wain. Reviewer: Greta Holt
"Harvey does a beautiful job balancing the story's many plot threads, while creating realistic, compelling characters. Identity, mental illness, social security (and insecurity), racial concerns, and recovery from trauma are all themes that surface throughout the novel without ever overwhelming the strong, skillfully told story."
Library Media Connection
"A moving story about the bonds of family...This is a highly engaging, high interest novel that addresses tough family issues. The reader easily empathizes with Sid as he grapples with tough decisions."
Sal's Fiction Addiction blog
"The characters are wonderful and well-drawn...Chloe's exuberance is a perfect foil to Sid's need for peace and quiet daily. She provides a bit of needed humor along the way. Each has a unique voice and plays an important role in the unfolding drama...The setting itself seems like a character that soothes with a peaceful calm that envelops those living there. Families come in all shapes, and this book is testament to that."
Resource Links
"Harvey does a good job crafting her characters. Sid is believable as a loner artist with a soft-spot for the downtrodden."
TriState YA Book Review Committee
"An absolute gem of a book about what makes a family a family as well as friendship, love, tolerance and so much more...As a coming-of-age book, this is a winner...Highly recomended."
Southwest Ohio and Neighboring Libraries (SWON)
"Realistic, moving, and paints a wonderful picture of nontraditional families."
YALSA YA Galley Teen Review
"Because of its great characters this story is multidimensional, realistic, and human, yet also relatable, optimistic, and bright."
VOYA - Lauri J. Vaughan
Sixteen-year-old Sid is happy, despite a rough start. He lives on an island in British Columbia with his foster parents, Megan and Caleb, who have hosted a myriad of troubled children since beginning with Sid fourteen years ago. Fariza, fragile, terrified and silently harboring secrets, has just arrived. Patiently cultivated by Sid, Megan, Caleb, and Sid’s friend, Chloe, Fariza’s healing begins. All is well and getting better--until Phil arrives. Phil, a friend of Sid’s biological mother, is desperate. Devi, who Sid has not spoken to or seen since his abandonment, has disappeared. Worse still, Devi’s thirteen-year-old son Wain--a half-brother Sid is just hearing about-- is also missing. Phil thinks Sid might be able to help. So begins Sid’s journey to find his brother, a journey he is not sure he wants to take to find a brother he is not sure he wants to know. Sid, regularly confronted with the differences and oddities demanded of a foster family, is not easily rattled. Now he finds himself squarely in his discomfort zone. Harvey’s expert pacing of Sid’s story is slowly hypnotic. Her characterization is top notch. She patiently reveals their personalities. Chloe, in particular, is a delightful supporting character who adds power to the novel. These characters are well constructed, uniquely defined by their actions and speech, and eminently engaging. Harvey does not shy away from the reality of difficult situations and faithfully depicts Devi’s mental illness, Wain’s troubled existence, and Fariza’s thaw from the chilling events that brought her to Sid’s life. An excellent read, put this book in the hands of fans of Louis Sacher’s Holes (Farrar Straus Giroux, 1998/Voya December 1998). Ages 11 to 18.
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Sixteen-year-old Sid is a budding artist who lives with his beloved foster parents, Megan and Caleb, on an island in British Columbia. His parents have just taken in Fariza, a girl who distrusts all males and does not speak at all. Soon, Sid and Fariza are together and Fariza grows comfortable around him. Just as they begin to make a connection, Phil arrives. He is a friend of Sid's birth mother, Devi, and needs Sid's help. He explains that Sid has a half brother, Wain, who has gone missing, and he needs help finding him. After deciding to go, Sid meets his wealthy grandmother. He visits his mother's studio and discovers where his artistic abilities come from. And, he eventually finds his brother, who also had no idea that he has a sibling. Sid soon realizes how lucky he is to have been taken in by his foster parents, as he has manners, a moral compass, and a quiet life that he loves. The plot is a bit far-fetched, and loose ends are tied up all too quickly in a pretty package at the book's end. However, the author offers insight into what it is like to deal with a parent's mental illness. Sid is too good to be true, and his ability to stay calm in all crises will either be inspiring or too saccharine for readers.—Lindsay Klemas, JM Rapport School for Career Development, Bronx, NY
Kirkus Reviews
Sid, 16, is an odd, orderly soul. He wears black T-shirts and jeans exclusively, sketches obsessively, hangs out with his best friend, Chloe, and helps out with Caleb and Megan's other foster kids on their peaceful British Columbia island. At age 2, Sid (short for Siddhartha) was taken from his bipolar mother, Devi, who'd neglected him; now only his private sketchbooks hint at his difficult history. After he shares these with mute, traumatized foster child Fariza, they create stories together, a healing process interrupted when Devi's friend Phil arrives. Sid learns he has a 13-year-old half brother, Wain (short for Gawain), who's gone missing. Phil enlists Sid's help in searching for him in Victoria. There, Sid discovers the source of his artistic gifts, meets his congenial grandmother and easily locates his brother, who's touchy, sullen and black. Many questions go unasked and unanswered. Why, after 14 years, haven't Sid's foster parents adopted him? Do the boys ever think about their birth fathers? What is it like to be the black son of a white mother in such a white world? Appealing, original characters--especially Sid, eccentric but high-functioning--are a strong suit. While strangely tone deaf to adoption and transracial family issues, Harvey portrays parental mental illness and the long-term effects of childhood trauma with compassionate insight. (Fiction. 12 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781459800663
  • Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/28/2012
  • Pages: 256

Meet the Author

Sarah N. Harvey has written for both children and young adults. Some of her books have been translated into Korean, German and Slovenian. Sarah lives and writes in Victoria, British Columbia. Visit for more information.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2014


    I didnt even read it bro!

    0 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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