Alice Hoffman

This novel, a work of magical realism, tells the story of thirteen year old Martha Glimmer, her friends the McGills, and their town, Oak Grove (after a terrible flood, the people of Oak Grove shunned water: they hated everything from baths to fishsticks; it never even rained in Oak Grove). Martha lost her mother the year before, felt sad, lonely, and awkward (having grown to a height she considered too tall), and hated Oak Grove and the way people seemed to feel sorry for her.  Her best friends, the McGills were "strange" because they loved water and everything about it.  One day, the three friends set out to see the ocean, a place the McGills long for, but have never seen. On the way, an epic storm nearly wipes out not just the runaways, but the town of Oak Grove.  Suddenly the fact that the boys can swim (in fact, they seem to be part fish!) makes them heros.  The story unfolds in a beautiful and magical way, with everyone learning why they are different, and how that difference is miraculous and amazing -- and how they are surrounded by love. Nothing that happens in this story is predictable, but it's fun and interesting.  The book is a very fast read and good for students who like "real" books and those who prefer "fantasy": it contains a bit of both.  It also deals with difference in a strange and descriptive way that provides a unique way to approach discussions about difference. 

Reading Level: 
Heads up - topics in this book that might require further discussion: 
Death of a parent/close family member
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