Why doesn't Caroline Best stay off the island and leave his family alone? George doesn't want somebody from the mainland thinking she can suddenly become a replacement for his dead mother. So when George comes up with a mean prank that he hopes will get rid of Caroline, he is sure that he has found the perfect way to return their family to the way it should be. "A beautifully crafted story that captures...the emotional landscape of an emerging step-family."—Language Arts. "The briskly paced novel will capture many readers...Once again, Bunting hits home."—BL.
About the Author
Eve Bunting was born in Ireland and came to California with her husband and three children. She is one of the most acclaimed and versatile children's book authors, with more than two hundred novels and picture books to her credit. Among her honors are many state awards, the Kerlan Award, the Golden Kite Award, the Regina Medal, the Mystery Writers of America and the Western Writers of America awards, and a PEN International Special Achievement award for her contribution to children's literature. In 2002, Ms. Bunting was chosen to be Irish-American Woman of the Year by the Irish-American Heritage Committee of New York.
Read an Excerpt
It was sometime in August when Caroline first came to the island. My little brother, James, and I noticed her getting off the ferryboat with the rest of the tourists. When we saw her cross the street to Dad's bike rental shop we tagged behind.
"How much to rent a bike for the day?" she asked Dad.
"Fifteen dollars," he said, and she said, "Okay."
She chose a blue ten-speed and took her ID and driver's license out of a red backpack to show to Dad.
"Caroline Best, 12 Shore Road, St. Ann's," he read aloud.
"Right," she said.
While he wrote it down, she turned to us. I hear there are good fudge shops on this island."
"A jillion of them," James said.
"But I bet you boys know the best one, right?"
"Right," I said. "Annie's is prime."
"We can show you if you like," James offered, and I knew he was hoping for a free chunk of fudge. James is a greedy little turkey.
"Great," Caroline said.
We got our bikes and rode with her along Main Street. Because it was summer, the island bulged with tourists. The horse trams were busy and the souvenir and shell shops swarmed with people. The air was sweet with the warm smells of fresh fudge and horse droppings. Although the pooper scooper guys in their white uniforms were hard at work behind the horses, it wasn't easy for them to keep up. Those horses have some output.
The three of us pulled in at Annie's and James and I watched the bikes while Caroline went inside. She bought double chocolate pecan delight and we leaned on our bikes and munched.
"Do you boys live on the island all-year round?" Caroline asked.
"Isn't it lonely in winter when the tourists leave ?"
"Nope." James's cheeks bulged. "We like it best when the tourists go."
That kid is rude. I give him a look. She's a tourist, dumbo. To Caroline I said, "He's only five. His name is James." I touched my chest. "I'm George. I'm eleven."
Caroline smiled. "I'm Caroline, and I'm thirty-two." She had great gappy teeth, the kind you see on the happy pumpkin face, except prettier. Her hair was long and brown as a horse's mane. I decided she wasn't as cute as Debbie O'Jibway, who is the all-time cutest girl in fifth grade. But for someone old Caroline looked really good.
"How many people live on the island year-round?" she asked me.
"Forty-three families including ours," I said.
James licked his fingers one by one. "If you like we could show you the best ice-cream shop on the island too," he said. "It's down the street."
Caroline laughed. "That sounds like an idea."
We showed her the sights of Dove Island as we biked along. Bleeker's Fort up on the hill, where they shoot off the cannons each Fourth of July; the Bay View Hotel, where once they made a movie and put up humongous tents on the front lawn.
James and Caroline and I sat on the bay wall to eat our ice-cream cones. The tops of the masts of the old sailing ship that sank there in 1832 poked out of the water.
"Her name's Miss Julia, and she was a schooner," James told Caroline. "Our mom's name was Julia, too. She died just after I was born." James was speaking in the sad little voice he always has when he speaks about Mom. "Georgie was six."
"I'm sorry," Caroline said, and I could tell she really was. I decided right away that she was nice.
I helped James mop the ice-cream drips off his T-shirt, then showed Caroline the road that goes around the island. "It's only four miles. If you stay on it you can't get lost," I said.
She waved and we watched her go.
The ferry wasn't in yet when she brought the bike back to the shop.
"The island's so beautiful," she told Dad, "and when you get past Main Street you hardly see anyone. No Cars Allowed. That's what makes the difference. I used to live in Chicago and I can't believe this quiet."
Dad grinned. "It's not exactly Chicago, that's for sure. What made you leave?"
"My husband and I got divorced," Caroline said. "I needed to get away. But now I think I need to get back. I miss the big city."
"St. Ann's is a big city," I said.
Caroline smiled. "Not hardly."
James pointed out of the bike shop window. "Here comes the Island Rover."
We heard the ferry whistle, and when we looked we could see it nudging the dock with its square white nose. The dock swayed and water rolled over the wooden planks. The crowds of tourists swayed, too, screaming and laughing the way they do every day.
"Come back and see us," Dad told Caroline.
"There's another road cuts right across the island," I added quickly. "It's neat, like a jungle. You'd like it."
"Oh, I think I need to see that." Caroline picked up her backpack. "Thanks."
We watched her go across and stand with the rest of the tourists who were heading back to St. Ann's.
I liked her a lot that first day and the next time she came back, too. I thought she and Dad were just having nice, friendly conversations in the bike shop.
My friend Tyler Flaherty says I was naive, which is just another word for dumb. Anyway, I never suspected that Dad and Caroline were getting serious about each other.
When I did, I stopped liking Caroline real fast.