A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Claire Legrand's Some Kind of Happiness shines a light on a family with secrets. When 11-year-old Finley Hart gets shipped off to her grandparents so her parents can address their broken marriage, she wonders why she's never met them before and why her father is estranged. This contemporary family story mirrors elements in a fantasy tale Finley is writing, snippets of which are woven into the text. Though all is carefully written to be appropriate for middle grade, the book deals squarely with divorce, depression, and anxiety. There are disturbing secrets from the past involving a fire and deaths, though Legrand doesn't dwell on the details. And because there's mention of how traits are passed down in a family -- the Harts say "it's in the blood" -- there might be some sensitivity or questions from kids who are adopted.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In SOME KIND OF HAPPINESS, 11-year-old Finley is dropped off at her grandparents house for the summer while her parents talk about divorce. She's never met her grandparents or the lively passel of cousins and aunts who come to visit. Finley is subject to bouts of depression and anxiety, and to calm herself she writes fantasy stories about a mystical forest she invents; snippets of those stories are included, juxtaposed with the real events. When Finley and her cousins act out the stories in the woods that border the house, they come upon a burned-out house and a family of boys they're instructed to stay away from, presenting mysteries to be solved. Despite her fears, Finley forges ahead to find information -- asking questions and digging in the local library.
Is it any good?
In this absorbing story that spans a summer, a young girl exposes long-festering family secrets as she and her cousins dig into local mysteries while also acting out a fantasy story she's written. Finley's a likable narrator who suffers anxiety attacks but manages to be adventurous and open. When she first arrives at her grandparents' house, her family intimidates her. Why do they all seem so perfect? But when she and her cousins explore the forbidden woods that abut the property and come upon a burned-out house, Finley begins to suspect that her family isn't so perfect after all, adding mystery and suspense to the well-drawn family story.
The fantasy story that Finley's writing is woven into the novel in just the right measure. Fin and her cousins are a fun bunch. Neighbor boys whom they're forbidden to play with also turn out to be nice kids with a bit harder row to hoe and provide a sweet hint of youthful romance. There's old-fashioned appeal in the kids roaming free and exploring the outdoors, and while Finley's conflict with her brittle grandma may seem too easily resolved, the story's exceedingly satisfying and well told.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about family secrets. Why do families keep secrets from the outside world? Why did Finley's grandparents want to keep the fire secret? Why did Jack keep secrets about his own family from Finley?
The real world versus imagined worlds. How are they different in the story? What elements are the same? How does Finley use fantasy to represent what she's feeling and experiencing?
What does it mean to be a member of a family? How are traits or values passed along? Are they "in the blood," as the Harts like to say, or do families communicate what they expect? How does your family let you know?
- Author: Claire Legrand
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: May 17, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 384
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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