Pauline Fisk, |
(Lion, 1991; Bloomsbury, 2003)
Bonnie, the young heroine of Pauline Fisk's Midnight Blue, is delighted to be living with her single mother Maybelle again after years of staying with her stifling and controlling grandmother, whom she calls "Grandbag." But she's barely there a day before Grandbag and Bonnie's equally unpleasant aunt, Doreen, show up at the door. Bonnie is unable to face Grandbag so soon after her liberation, so she slips out of the apartment and hides among the trees of the house next door. There she discovers that the owner, Michael, has a hot air balloon and plans for an unusual journey.
Unfortunately for Bonnie and Maybelle, Grandbag and Doreen return the next day with suitcases to stay indefinitely. They've decided that Maybelle can't raise Bonnie on her own and proceed to take over the apartment. Horrified, Bonnie plans to escape with Michael in his midnight blue hot air balloon.
Although Michael refuses to take her, she ends up in the balloon basket anyway and takes flight to a world where everything is idyllic and where Bonnie is safe from Grandbag -- or is she?
The narrative is deceptively simple with few embellishments, but the story is far from simplistic. Fisk gives Bonnie a conflict between good and evil set within a narrow framework. While struggling against the external threat, Bonnie also struggles with inner demons of jealousy, pettiness and selfishness. She has a choice to make, and how meaningful her choice will be depends entirely on the outcome of her inner struggles.
Midnight Blue is beautifully written, with a timelessness that destines it to become a modern classic. The characters are as real as the folks in your neighborhood, and it's a book you will want to share with your favorite middle grade reader, once you've read it yourself.