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THE HOUSE THAT WASN'T THERE by Elana K. Arnold Kirkus Star


by Elana K. Arnold

Pub Date: March 30th, 2021
ISBN: 978-0-06-293706-3
Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

The arrival of new neighbors kicks off strange events and life-changing experiences for two families.

With an inward focus reminiscent of the novels of Kevin Henkes, Arnold sets shy, 11-year-old Alder Madigan, living with his mom at 15 Rollingwood Dr., against outgoing Oak Carson, who has moved next door to No. 11 with her mom while her dad stays behind in San Francisco to tie up loose ends. Relations get off to a rocky start after Oak’s mother arbitrarily has the huge old tree between the houses cut down. Distress at the tree’s loss is compounded by Alder’s erstwhile best friend’s hanging out with a popular kid, leading to hostile initial encounters with Oak. Still, Alder and his new neighbor are drawn together by a series of mystifying experiences—including finding out that it’s not always true that there’s no No. 13 on their block and discovering that they’ve independently adopted sibling kittens. Saving one last, wonderful coincidence for the climactic arrival of Oak’s father, the author enriches her sparely told story with other hints of magic, song lyrics, good choices that key sudden sea changes in several relationships, and the small background details that make settings and backstories seem real. Readers will find Alder’s conclusion that everything is connected, and also complicated, well taken. The cast presents as White.

A low-key marvel rich in surprises, small fuzzy creatures, and friendships old and new.

(Fiction. 10-13)