Friday, April 11, 2014

Willow and Twig by Jean Little

Willow has been getting by as best she can, caring for her difficult brother Twig and adapting to whatever circumstances throw at her as she moves between temporary homes and strangers who range from casually kind to dangerously volatile. But when events become too overwhelming even for her coping skills, she finds herself sent across the country, with Twig, to her unknown grandmother. All she knows is that she didn't want Willow - will she take them in now? Then Willow finally meets her and begins to recall her childhood memories. Events move with dizzying speed and Willow is suddenly discovering she has a family and a history she never knew. She has to use all her coping abilities to handle her new family and to help Twig transition as well.

Little doesn't sugarcoat Willow and Twig's life. Twig is deaf from childhood abuse and has other physical issues from his mother using drugs during her pregnancy. Willow is fiercely protective and reluctant to allow adults, who don't know or understand Twig, to take over his care. At the same time she desperately wants a life of her own and to try to be normal. They're also biracial and must face prejudice and curiosity from kids and adults. But Willow's new family isn't completely normal either - her uncle is blind and she finds out that her mother and other uncle were adopted. With love and understanding, Gram helps Willow settle in and being to flower in her new home.

Like all of Jean Little's work, it focuses on characters having hope and triumphing even in the darkest of circumstances and portrays characters with disabilities in everyday settings, with both faults and virtues, making them the protagonists of their own stories instead of foils to a "normal" main character as they so often are, or plot devices to showcase compassion in other characters (*cough* Wonder *cough*)

Verdict: This isn't a perfect story - there are some subplots that are left dangling and sometimes the story is a little overly dramatic in portraying the children's miserable lives and then fixing every difficulty as it arises. However, it's a tale of hope and courage and eminently readable. Sadly, it is out of print, but if it ever gets reprinted I will definitely buy a copy.

ISBN: 0141306696; Published 2001 by Puffin Canada; From my personal library

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