A Soft Place to Land

Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins/. Sept. 2021. 288p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062875877.
Gr 4-6–When 12-year-old Joy Taylor’s dad loses his job and the family has to give up their house, Joy’s dreams of learning to play the piano and someday becoming a film score composer are put on hold. Their new apartment is too small, her mom and dad are fighting, and there is no money for piano lessons. A secret room in the apartment complex, known as the Hideout, provides a place where Joy and the other kids in the building can temporarily escape. Soon Joy makes new friends, starts a dog-walking business, and even begins writing to someone who is leaving heartrending messages on the wall of the Hideout. One weekend things go terribly wrong, and Joy must face uncomfortable realities about loyalty and responsibility. This relatable story touches on topics such as divorce (Joy’s parents briefly separate, then reconcile), the ups and downs of having a job at a young age, and the difficulties that arise from keeping secrets from family and friends. Joy is Black, and there is a diverse cast of characters with different experiences including her new best friend Nora, who is Latinx, and a boy named Miles, who is one of only a few Black students at a private school.
VERDICT An engaging coming-of-age story that will appeal to a wide range of readers.–

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