One thing I noticed looking back at my previous reads – they all involved photos of a passage that impacted me. This book is no different. I took a photo of my favorite passage while reading (before I revisited those previous articles).
“You had to hope for the best.
You had to keep going even when things weren’t fair.
You had to believe in the possibility of days like this day.
And you had to work to make them happen.”
Let’s dive into this book. Sila’s mother has to return to Turkey to straighten out her immigration paperwork. She expects to be gone for a week but a week turns into a year. Sila struggles through this separation while she waits with her dad for news of her mom’s return. During this time, Sila meets an assortment of characters who change her life in ways she could never imagine. Along with her dad, Sila meets Gio a retired lottery winner who was married to Sila’s favorite teacher (who passed away). She is paired by her school with Matteo who she doesn’t plan to befriend but sometimes the universe seems to have different plans.
The failing circus owner is so desperate to sell an elephant, he will throw in a bear too. The largest character in the book (both in size and impact on Sila) is Veda, a retired circus elephant that Gio rescues who gives Sila a sense of purpose and distraction during the separation from her mom. How do these characters come together? Read the book, trust me. While it sounds like unlikely friendships and scenarios in my description, Holly Goldberg Sloan weaves in an incredible tale.
The story combines sadness, loneliness, hope, and promise. We find friendship in people we don’t expect. Strangers become not only friends but help in ways Sila and her dad never imagined they could. Her characters are fascinating, frustrating, wonderful humans. She tackles a tough topic, separation due to immigration issues and doesn’t sugarcoat it at all but addresses the myriad of emotions in a way that is appropriate for young readers. I can not recommend this book enough.
Jessica Collins is an award-winning writer who has earned National acclaim for her series On The Children's Shelf. Visit On the Children's Shelf HERE to follow Jessica's reading journey.