As I was finishing the book Prairie Evers by Ellen Airgood I worried the ending would be too perfect--everything would work out in such a way to leave the reader happy, even if isn’t the way real life worked. And it reminded me of One for the Murphys, which made me cry because it was real life. Turns out the ending of Prairie Evers is open, and that’s how it should be. One for the Murphys, sigh, ended as it should have too. Let’s compare (spoilers ahead).
Prairie Evers, which is for children in grades 3-5, is about a once-homeschooled girl who finds a BFF in Ivy Blake when she starts attending the local school. Ivy, though, comes from a troubled home. Where Prairie is outgoing with artsy, but stable parents, Ivy is shy and fatherless. Worse, her mom killed her father in a domestic accident. Ivy’s mom is sullen and depressed and cares not a whit for Ivy. Prairie and her family recognize this and Ivy becomes a de facto member of their household. Ivy’s mom meets, then marries George, and the newlyweds decide to move to another city. Ivy’s mom is totally OK leaving Ivy to finish out the school year with Prairie and her parents. The book ends on January 1, so we don’t know what will happen when the next school year starts. Ivy is sad that her mother has so easily given her up and sad that she doesn’t miss her quite as much as she thinks she should. For now, though, Ivy is safe and loved.
One for the Murphys (for grades 5-8) is a bit similar. In Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s book, Carley is living with the Murphys as a foster child. She and her mom had been badly beaten by Carley’s stepfather. The mom needs more recovery time and Carley needs a home. Carley, as one might guess, is a rough around the edges and guarded with her feelings. It’s difficult for her to adapt to the loving Murphy brood. But Mrs. Murphy, once a foster child herself, wants to care for Carley and over the course of the novel Carley begins to let down some of her defenses. When Carley’s mom is ready to take Carley back, it’s bittersweet and a bit heart-breaking. I did not want Carley to leave her new family.
I recommend One for the Murphys wholeheartedly and Prairie Evers almost as much for each age group. The hard-hitting realities of domestic abuse and foster families are handled just right for their given audiences. Younger kids will appreciate Prairie’s spirit and how she wants to help Ivy. Having Ivy as a secondary character makes her situation not as dramatic for this age group. Older kids, who will understand Carley’s mixed feelings about leaving the Murphys, will appreciate her story more.