- Happily for Now by Kelly Jones
Trade ed. ISBN 9780593179529 $16.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9780593179543 $9.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R Gr. 3-5
Fiona knows that Mom urgently needs help for her addiction, and with the guidance and support of a social worker, Ms. Davis, Fiona is willing to spend the summer in Cold Hope with relatives she doesn’t know. Fiona arrives with a positive attitude—perhaps a bit too positive—determined to spend her time solving other people’s problems just like Ms. Davis helps her out, while Ms. Davis tries to tame her good intentions by offering mini-lessons on how to think less like a fairy god-person and more like a social worker. There’s no question Fiona’s relatives could use some help: Great-Aunt Alta is gloomy, snippy, and controlling; Great-Uncle Timothy and Aunt Becky, who run the family bakery, meekly sublimate their own interests to Alta’s demand to uphold family traditions at all costs. As Fiona acts out good intentions with unflagging determination, it’s predictable that happy endings will ensue all around, but only after the beneficiaries make the effort to help themselves. Though the plot may recall Pollyanna, the droll tone owes more to Cold Comfort Farm (an influence Jones explains in a note); middle graders are unlikely to recognize these antecedents, however, and will simply enjoy the light-hearted yet solid-themed story itself. Neatly plotted anecdotes revolving around Becky’s feud with a rival baker and silent Timothy’s repressed desires to create art and woo the mail carrier keep the chuckles coming, and Murphy’s Cold Hope map and black and white vignettes support the light mood. Jones’s portrayal of a girl shouldering far [End Page 383] too much responsibility is sympathetic, and it’s refreshing to find a young heroine whose trusted social services network steers her in exactly the right direction.