Stories of orphans making it on their own and finding own family are a staple of children’s literature, and Newbery Honor writer Polly Horvath’s Pine Island Home has an old school feel. It’s a comforting coming-of-age tale about 4 sisters whose missionary dad and mom are killed in a tsunami. Their great-aunt Martha agrees to take them in, however when Fiona and her younger sisters, Marlin, Natasha and Charlie, arrive on Pine Island, they discover Martha has just died.
The sisters circulate into her house anyway. Determined to keep her circle of relatives together, Fiona negotiates with Al, the eccentric and often inebriated creator who lives on the property adjacent to Martha’s. He consents to fake to be their father or mother in change for beer money and dinners cooked by budding chef Marlin.
Horvath (One Year in Coal Harbor, The Night Garden) is a grasp at creating triumphing characters, and each sister emerges as a wonderful individual. In particular, Fiona is a study in resilience, shouldering the load of monetary responsibility and the insistent emails from their great-aunt’s attorney. The girls’ efforts at self-sufficiency are appealing, as are the forged of townsfolk and the bucolic setting, because the sisters find out that households may be created in surprising ways.