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Wing Nut    by M. J. Auch order for
Wing Nut
by M. J. Auch
Order:  USA  Can
Henry Holt, 2005 (2005)

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* * *   Reviewed by Lyn Seippel

Twelve-year-old Grady Flood and his mother are on the move again. They've left the commune life behind and are heading to New York where his mother, Lila, insists they will land on their feet. They always do, right? With very little money and a car that's running on fumes and patched with duct tape, Grady isn't so sure.

When the car finally dies near a small town in Pennsylvania, Lila is lucky enough to be hired as cook and housekeeper to a curmudgeonly old farmer whose family want to him to have a caretaker while they winter in Florida. Charlie Fernwald hires Lila to satisfy his son, and with the understanding that she'll leave him to his frozen dinners and keep out of his way until she saves the money to leave. Lila is determined to do her job while she is there, enticing him with homemade bread and slyly healthy meals.

Meanwhile, Grady is introduced to Purple Martins and auto mechanics. The mechanics he has a gift for, and the birds are interesting enough if you ignore the fact that to protect them Charlie is trapping and killing house sparrows. Their relationship is threatened when Grady makes the mistake of releasing the sparrows and causing the death of a Purple Martin named after Charlie's dead wife, Marie. The Purple Martins story is deftly woven into Grady's emotionally turbulent relationship with Charlie.

Grady's desire to protect his mother, and the embarrassment he feels when she puts on airs, ring true as does Lila's pride in the things she does well. Wing Nut is a lovely, heartwarming book about a boy who expects little from the world around him and finds a place to call home.

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