Hest (Letters to Leo) interlaces three perspectives to relay a story about two families living in a Long Island seaside town during WWII. Each credible voice is distinct yet complementary, shaping a richly layered, cohesive novel that is by turns heartwarming and heartbreaking. It opens with a bang, as 11-year-old Julie Sweet and her younger sister, Martha, find an infant in a basket on the library steps, and Julie impulsively decides to flee with it. Her on-again-off-again friend and nemesis Bruno Ben-Eli, 12, is on a mission for his beloved, greatly missed older brother, who’s off serving in the war, when he sees the sisters with the baby. He surreptitiously follows them to the beach, where a stately woman in a chauffeur-driven car arrives with a picnic to share. Hest deftly deconstructs this scenario through Bruno’s, Julie’s, and Martha’s flashbacks, escalating the intrigue before finally illuminating the identities of the baby and the woman—and why each has appeared. A poignant composite portrait of three children’s—and two loving families’—hope and resilience in the face of loss and uncertainty. Ages 10–up. (Aug.)
Gr 3–6—Told in three voices, this is a quick-paced story about a Long Island beach town, a mysterious baby, the sorrows of war, and the strength of unwavering hope. Eleven-year-old Julie and six-year-old Martha Sweet are on their way to attend the dedication of the new Belle Beach library when they discover a baby on the steps. In their haste to save the day, they don't notice an envelope drop to the ground; but their neighbor, Bruno Ben-Eli, does. Bruno has bigger concerns, however. Having received a secret letter from his brother overseas, Bruno is on his way to run an important errand in New York City. But now that he's a witness, he can't let Julie kidnap a baby! What unfolds is a jumbled time line of events told by all three children. Each chapter brings new insight, and more intrigue. Will the library's opening be a success? Will they hear news from Bruno's brother? Will Julie and Bruno become friends? And most importantly: Who is the baby in the basket? With expert character development and clever narration from three distinct perspectives, Hest seamlessly immerses her readers into the hopes and fears of war-time America. It's a simple premise: A baby found alone in a basket. Yet the complicated layering of events makes for a truly engaging and heartwarming story of steadfastness and solidarity. VERDICT Young readers will be drawn in by the mystery, stay for the characters, and sigh contentedly when the story draws to a close.—Rebecca Redinger, Lincoln Park Branch, Chicago P.L.
Three children, one baby, and a dog share a special time during World War II.
Two sisters, their widowed father, and their dog who is “too scared to go in the ocean” are spending a wartime summer at a small beach town in Long Island, New York. Julie Sweet is 11, and her sister, Martha, is 6. Next-door neighbor Bruno Ben-Eli is 12 and has an older brother fighting overseas. The story opens with great drama as Julie finds a baby in a basket at the about-to-open children’s library. Martha thinks that the baby is a doll, and Bruno, who is on his way to the train station to deliver a secret letter for his brother, finds an envelope that came with the well-cared-for baby. The three children each tell their stories in short, alternating chapters with very engaging voices, dialogue expressed in all-capital letters. Bruno is trying to sort out the whole girl thing while Julie claims that she “doesn’t even like boys that much.” Both families are strong and loving even as Bruno’s mother frets about her older son. In a short time, the library will be dedicated with a very special lady visitor from Washington, D.C., in attendance. Hest balances foreground action against background deftly: The mystery of the baby will be a happy reveal, and the war will continue. The characters all present white.
Warm family stories laced with some sorrow and great joy. (Historical fiction. 9-12)
Hest deftly deconstructs this scenario through Bruno’s, Julie’s, and Martha’s flashbacks, escalating the intrigue before finally illuminating the identities of the baby and the woman—and why each has appeared. A poignant composite portrait of three children’s—and two loving families’—hope and resilience in the face of loss and uncertainty.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
At first glance, The Summer We Found the Baby (Candlewick, $16.99, 9780763660079, ages 10 and up), a short novel about a baby discovered in a basket on the steps of the new children’s library in Belle Beach, Long Island, appears to be a sweet snapshot of life in a small town during World War II. But author Amy Hest packs much into its pages—an intricate plot, deeply imagined characters and relationships and adroitly tackled big issues such as death and unplanned pregnancy—and handles it all with delicacy and care.
—BookPage (starred review)
It’s a simple premise: A baby found alone in a basket. Yet the complicated layering of events makes for a truly engaging and heartwarming story of steadfastness and solidarity. Young readers will be drawn in by the mystery, stay for the characters, and sigh contentedly when the story draws to a close.
—School Library Journal (starred review)
Hest balances foreground action against background deftly: The mystery of the baby will be a happy reveal, and the war will continue...Warm family stories laced with some sorrow and great joy.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Hest’s unique narrative approach divides the book into sections that describe the incidents of August 31 and then go back to June 21, sequentially unfolding the summer’s events...This historical tale engagingly presents ordinary life, while acknowledging the toll war can take on a community.
Bruno thinks about his older brother’s enlistment in the military to fight in World War II, and Julie and Martha think about the loss of their mother and Julie her determination to make things happen. The result is a gently told, slightly mysterious historical narrative that gradually lays down clues about who the baby is and what Julie’s doing with her...the piecing together of the strands and the resolution for the baby will satisfy readers looking for an offbeat read that both challenges and reassures.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
In short chapters that emphasize the youth of those involved—Ms. Hest uses capital letters rather than quotation marks to set off speech, making it seem as though the children are shouting—the testimonies of Bruno, Julie and Martha braid together to form a satisfying, bittersweet story of life on the home front.
—The Wall Street Journal