The Swift Boys & Me

272p. Scholastic. May 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545562003; ebk. $16.99. ISBN 9780545562027. LC 2013034049.
Gr 5–7—Nola Sutton was looking forward to spending the summer after sixth grade doing odd jobs and having fun with her best friend, Canaan Swift. But when Canaan's dad abruptly leaves his family, Canaan becomes first distant, and then downright hostile, forcing a hurt Nola to make other plans. She strengthens a casual friendship, makes a new friend, and gets to know her cranky grandmother a little better—and begins to accept that some things must change, for better or for worse. Copious flashbacks, demonstrating what a great friend Canaan has always been, slow what little forward momentum the plot has and make the boy's total personality change—from super friend to dog-tormenting bully—seem even more perplexing. Nola's attempt to track down Mr. Swift's whereabouts strains credulity and adds nothing to the plot; also unconvincing is much of the dialogue, though it does a good job of getting across a flavor of the Kentucky setting. Barbara O'Connor's books are a better bet for stories of friendship with a Southern accent.—Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library
Nola shares everything with neighbors Brian, Canaan, and Keith Swift. But when their father leaves suddenly, the boys start excluding her. Without best friend Canaan, Nola tries to determine what makes a true friend, and she's surprised by what she learns. Nola's misguided search for Mr. Swift rings as unbelievable, but Keplinger offers powerful lessons about hope, friendship, and inner strength.

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