Full Text Reviews:
School Library Journal - 02/01/2017 Gr 5–7—Eleven-year-old Fern has more responsibilities than most children her age. Since the deaths of her mother and baby sister in a car crash two years earlier, she has lived with her stepfather, Toivo, and her two younger brothers. Fern works hard to help keep her poor family together. Toivo, a veteran of the Iraq War, has been unemployed since losing his job as a mechanic, and although he does odd jobs to support his family, he drinks too much and it's a struggle to keep food on the table. Fern is central to the family's success. Their house is surrounded by a forest, which Fern treasures as both sanctuary and food basket. The woods are where she gathers ingredients to make dishes from her mother's recipe book, several of which are included in the novel. Fern has good friends, including her closest companion, Alkomso Isak, who wears a hijab, and she deeply respects her science teacher, Mr. Flores. Fern is struggling to select a project for the school's STEM fair when she discovers that her beloved woods are being considered as a wastewater pond for a fracking company. It is an especially complicated issue for Fern. Her grandfather, one of the town's wealthiest men, actively disapproves of Toivo and supports the frackers. To Toivo, the fracking company's arrival means he may be able to obtain a secure job. But as Fern learns more about the threat of environmental disruption, she decides on her STEM project and develops an unlikely friendship with a neighbor. Although some of the dialogue is improbable, this is an excellent book for readers interested in exploring a complex contemporary environmental issue. Fern is a likable character who is, in her words, figuring out "what kind of adult do I want to be." A worthy goal. VERDICT A strong addition on a timely and important topic.—Shelley Sommer, Inly School, Scituate, MA - Copyright 2017 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Booklist - 03/15/2017 *Starred Review* Incredible things can be found in the woods if you know where to look. Fern loves wandering among the trees, which remind her of her mother and help feed her family while Toivo, her stepfather, is between jobs. The past year has been tough on them all since the accident took Fern’s mother and baby brother, but Fern helps Toivo by cooking, minding her two little brothers, and foraging for food. It’s a lot of pressure for a sixth-grader, and the calls from bill collectors and Child Protective Services only add to her worries. When a fracking company comes to town with plans to turn her woods into a wastewater pond, Fern decides to use her STEM fair project to showcase the useful flora the community would lose if the frackers chop down the trees. Helget (Wonder at the Edge of the World, 2015) has penned a rich narrative laced with astute observations on poverty, grief, forgiveness, and environmental concerns. Many stories would buckle under such weighty themes, but Fern proves a stalwart protagonist who bears this load admirably. Her fortitude and big heart give the story a determined hopefulness, even as she comes to realize many of life’s problems don’t have simple or straightforward solutions. An uncommonly fine account of perseverance and understanding in the face of adversity. - Copyright 2017 Booklist.