Finding Esme Review

FINDING ESME
by
SUZANNE CROWLEY
  
Genre: Middle Grade (3-7) / Magical Realism / Family & Loss
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Date of Publication: August 14, 2018
Number of Pages: 288

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After her grandfather died from a heart attack while driving his tractor on Solace Hill, twelve-year-old Esme’s been inextricably drawn to that spot, although her grandmother warns her to stay away. But when she follows her little brother, Bo, and her dog, Old Jack, up the hill while chasing fireflies, she makes an incredible discovery—dinosaur bones peeking out from underneath the abandoned tractor.

The bones must be a message from her grandfather, a connection from beyond the grave. But when word gets out that the farm is hiding something valuable, reporters, researchers, and neighbors arrive in droves. Esme struggles to understand who has her best interests at heart, especially as the memory of her grandfather begins to slip away.

Full of friendship and adventure, and featuring a palpable Texas setting, Finding Esme is a moving and heartfelt story about family, friendship, and learning to deal with loss.

PRAISE & HONORS FOR FINDING ESME:

“Esme is a brave, appealing heroine with the odds stacked against her… Bad blood and layered family secrets drive this story to its ultimately optimistic and satisfying conclusion.” — Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)

“Esme McCauley is a lonely but spirited 12-year-old who feels nothing ever happens to her the way it’s supposed to…A poignant tale for readers who enjoy character-driven realism.” — School Library Journal

“Readers muddling through preteen changes or unstable family lives will identify with Esme’s struggles, but the thrill of discovery will appeal to most.” — Booklist

Texas Library Association 2019 Spirit of Texas (SPOT) reading program selection

Has anyone ever seen a studio ghibli movie or read the books? Reading Finding Esme reminded me of them quite a bit. It’s the transition between childhood and growing up, where the world seems bigger each day than it did before. To me, this book was on the cusp of that and accepting those things we face. Esme herself is struggling with wanting to stay who she is, even with the changes happening since her Grandpa Pap’s passed away. However, even with these strange and sometimes shocking discoveries, Esme does carry this mature sensibility within her.

“You came out like you were already grown-up, Esme McCauley, even though you were half as big as a minute. I looked into those green eyes of yours and it was like you’d already seen the whole world but were still looking for something.”

Dealing with this loss has created a rift in Esme and what she once knew. Even the people around her, friends and family, begin to act different. Or perhaps she begins to notice things she didn’t before. I had mixed feelings about Bee, her grandmother and primary caregiver. She is a mystery to Esme and can seem aloof in her affections. At the same time, you know that Bee wholeheartedly cares for Esme and her brother and want the best for them. She treats Esme like an adult at times but keeps things from her as well. This causes Esme to feel even more isolated with everything that has happened in her short life so far. Esme begins keeping her own secrets which lead her to discovering more and more hidden history along the way. Grandma Bee has a finding gift that she calls God-given, but Esme has conflicting emotions about it. Despite her gift seeming even more powerful than Bee at times, she wants to fit in and not seem odd to the town. I can’t always say this about characters but I really liked Esme’s character from beginning to end in this book. As you follow along in the story with Esme’s point of view, the mysteries unfold and you are left with more questions. Esme is clever, caring but level-headed, and does her best to be herself despite outside pressures.

While at first I had to get used to the pace of the story and characters introduced, it didn’t take but a few chapters to become fully immersed in Finding Esme. The interweaving of everyone in town was a great addition to this story and added an extra spin to everything uncovered. There were complicated relationships that had history spanning generations and the distinct personalities that were affected by other characters. I feel like Crowley’s writing really shone here and made it unique.

Suzanne Crowley is the author of two acclaimed novels for young readers, The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous and The Stolen One. The author, who is also a miniaturist and dollhouse collector whose work has graced the covers of magazines worldwide, was born in a small town in Texas and lives in Southlake, Texas. When not hugging her dog or imbibing in chocolate, she can often be found taking a nap.
 

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———————————–
GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!
TWO READERS EACH WIN A SIGNED COPY OF FINDING ESME, TWO CANDLES, BOOKMARKS, FUN FACT CARDS, AND A PEN!
February 11-21, 2020

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3 thoughts on “Finding Esme Review

  1. I felt the same way about the way Crowley included the town in her narrative. Those tend to become my favorite stories. Much like Chocolate, how the townsfolk are equally important to the protagonist. It felt like a subtle blending of Esme’s story and her family’s place in a community they didn’t exactly fit in with, but couldn’t do without 🙂

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