“The Lost Girl,” by Anne Ursu. (HarperCollins/Walden Pond, 356 pages, $16.99.)
Twins Iris and Lark Maguire are very close and very different. Lark is the dreamy, artistic one who lives in her imagination and doesn’t like strangers. Iris is the practical one who stands up for shy Lark and who gets in trouble for her “assertive personality.”
But as sixth grade begins at Barnhill Elementary (the name an homage to Minneapolis writer Kelly Barnhill), their world begins to go askew. Their parents decide they should be in separate classrooms. They have separate after-school activities — an art camp for Lark and a girls club called Camp Awesome for Iris.
At the same time, an odd antiques store owner moves into their neighborhood, becoming a friend to Iris and posting mysterious signs that say, “Alice, Where Are You?” Museums across the Twin Cities begin losing rare items from their collections, including “Spoonbridge and Cherry” from the Sculpture Garden and a rare stuffed bird from the Bell Museum.
The heart of this novel revolves around the struggles of each girl to cope with new situations without the support of the other. Minneapolis author Anne Ursu turns a sharp eye on the way girls are socialized to be nice, rather than to speak out. (Iris’ teacher calls her a bully.)
The late reveal of a real monster introduces a note of darkness that is hinted at early on but escalates rapidly into an ugly confrontation. The novel also includes an awkward, bird’s-eye narrator who has one of the most haunting lines in the book, “I miss being a girl. He took that from me.”
“The Lost Girl” ends on an upbeat note as Lark, Iris and the girls of Camp Awesome find that they have more power together than alone. The girl power message comes through loud and clear.
Events: 6:30 p.m. Feb. 12, Red Balloon, 891 Grand Av., St. Paul, and at 2 p.m. March 2, Wild Rumpus, 2720 W. 43rd St., Mpls.
“A Tear in the Ocean,” by H.M. Bouwman. (Putnam, 291 pages, $16.99.)
St. Paul author H.M. Bouwman returns to the watery kingdom of Raftworld in this follow-up to her 2017 novel, “A Crack in the Sea.”
Putnam, 12, son of the king of Raftworld, has been groomed for his future role leading his people. But he’s frustrated that his cautious father refuses to admit the ocean is growing more salty — threatening the future of Raftworld and the Islanders they meet on their migrations.
Twelve-year-old Artie is an Islander on the run from an abusive stepfather. When she stows away on a boat that Putnam has “borrowed” for a journey south, the two find themselves in close quarters trying to hold onto their secrets.
In a separate timeline, Rayel, the unloved daughter of an earlier Raftworld king, is fleeing an arranged marriage. As she prepares to leave, she realizes that she will miss the watery kingdom, “the chickens and the small birds, the lush gardens, the water slapping lightly on the bottom of the raft day and night. The feeling of movement under your feet all the time, as if you were part of the world’s breathing — something no one on land ever really got to experience.”
She feels drawn to the oceans of the south, where she meets an injured dolphin, Nunu, that she nurses back to health.
The two story lines and journeys run parallel, with Rayel in the past and Putnam and Artie in the present, each discovering a mysterious island and heading further into the icy waters of the southern ocean.
Bouwman weaves the threads deftly, with Rayel’s interactions with Nunu foreshadowing dangers that become more ominous as Putnam and Artie reach the same terrain. The story lines converge in a mysterious underground cave as each character faces a moment of reckoning.
“A Tear in the Ocean” is a classic fairy tale, a quest story, grappling with darkness and a journey of discovery. But Bouwman turns it into something quieter and deeper. The children’s true courage comes in smaller steps of bravery: Facing a painful feeling. Listening. Accepting hurt as part of the journey.
Yuko Shimizu’s illustrations of the novel’s multiracial characters add to the story’s emotional resonance.
“The Line Tender,” by Kate Allen. (Dutton, 394 pages, $17.99.)
Kate Allen’s debut novel, “The Line Tender,” was written in Minneapolis but is imbued with a New England emotional reserve.
Budding artist Lucy Everhart, 12, and her dad are stumbling along after the death of Lucy’s mom, Helen, a shark biologist. Her dad is busy and remote, and Lucy spends most of her summer with her best friend, Fred, working on their “field guide” — an extra-credit project that has captured Lucy’s interest as an illustrator and Fred’s as a budding naturalist.
When a giant white shark is hauled in by a local fisherman named Sookie, Lucy and Fred are drawn to the docks. Later they discover an unfinished research proposal of Helen’s, charting the migration of those sharks off the Massachusetts coast.
An accident leads to Fred’s death and sends Lucy and her father deeper into their own corners of grief. But Lucy begins probing her memories of her mother, her mother’s unfinished research and her own ability to visualize the shark she needs to draw to finish her field guide.
Allen slowly builds a vivid portrait of the tiny coastal community along with Lucy’s unfolding discovery of her mother’s research. Lucy begins to understand her own frozen emotions, her confusion about her relationship with Fred and her longing for her mother.
“The line tender sees everything,” her dad tells her. “Reads the divers’ signals, the terrain, the equipment. Uses all the resources to stay connected at the other end of the line.”
Allen’s understated but richly detailed story will help young readers dig into their resilience to see how they, too, can draw connections in their lives.
Trisha Collopy is a Star Tribune copy editor. 612-673-4644