Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 12
- Grade: 8 to 12
- Reading age: 12
Malou has just turned sixteen—hardly old enough to be out in the world on her own—and all she knows for sure is that she’s of mixed race and that she was left at an orphanage as a newborn. When the orphanage burns to the ground, she finds out that she may have been born in a small town in Ontario’s cottage country. Much to her surprise, Parry Sound turns out to have quite a few young brown faces, but Malou can’t believe they might be related to her. After she finds work as a cleaner in the local hospital, an Aboriginal boy named Jimmy helps her find answers to her questions about her parents. The answers are as stunning—and life-changing—as anything Malou could have imagined back at the orphanage.
Part of the SECRETS—a series of seven linked novels that can be read in any order.
About the author
Marthe Jocelyn is the award-winning author and illustrator of over thirty-five books for babies, kids and teens. Her illustrated books have been shortlisted for both the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award. In 2009 she was the recipient of the prestigious Vicky Metcalf Award for her body of work. One Red Button and One Piece of String are the result of her lifelong obsession with scraps, and her delight in surprising the reader with unexpected details. Originally from Toronto, Marthe settled in Stratford, Ontario, after a thirtyyear stretch in New York. For more information, visit www.marthejocelyn.com.
- Commended, CCBC Best Books for Kids & Teens
"A fresh coming-of-age tale with an unconventional twist."
"Adept at historical research, Marthe Jocelyn brings into her story issues of racism, homosexuality, and the advancement of modern medicine in the 1960s."
"Stunning in its ability to captivate readers. The short titled scenes make for a quick read, adding wit and suspense to an otherwise classic coming-of-age story. Malou has a clear, clever, and strong voice, with believable emotions that hit the heart. This is an underdog story with a likable and relatable protagonist. It does not delve deep into subplots or secondary characters, but there are allusions to heartache, mental illness, domestic issues, racism, and prejudice. It is a fascinating story with a bit of Three Times Lucky (Dial, 2012/VOYA August 2012) charm."
"Malou has led a sheltered life at the orphanage and often reveals an innocent naiveté, but her resourcefulness and intelligence counteract this to make her an engaging and likable character to whom readers will relate. The cast of characters in the book is very diverse, but it never feels forced and avoids the pitfalls of tokenism...An entertaining book and a great mystery that will also introduce readers to an interesting sliver of medical history...Highly Recommended."
"Short, diary-style chapters keep the plot moving as our charming and optimistic heroine uncovers some startling information about herself and learns about the true nature of family and friendship. Sharp writing keeps this dramatic coming-of-age story from taking a turn toward the saccharine or melodramatic...Lovely and easily digestible historical fiction."
"Facing racial hatred from a myriad of sources, Malou’s experiences highlight racial, social and sexual inequalities of the era without being preachy. At times, the situations were frightening and all too realistic, but Jocelyn manages to weave the issues of the day into her story without having them take over...This is, ultimately, a story of finding out who you are—a concept every teenager struggles with at some point in their life. Although Malou answers many questions about her past, there are still some issues left unresolved, and I liked that. In life, not every question has an answer, but we learn to move past that in order to make our own future."
Lost in a Great Book blog
"A compelling genealogical mystery...Through this inspiring heroine and characters that include a gay, biracial couple living as sisters-in-law, Jocelyn illuminates racial and social inequality as significant today as it was during the civil rights movement. Poignant and resonant, it’s an important exploration for readers seeking their own identities."
"Enchanting. It depicts the racial tension of the 1960s and the longing an orphan feels for an explanation. The narration is unique and endearing. The characters are all delightful and the protagonist’s introduction to the world causes readers to look at things in a new light...A charming read for all."
VOYA, Teen Reviewer