Author: Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books (a Penguin imprint)
Release Date: May 10, 2012
Number of Pages: 224
Source of Book: Borrowed from Library
A moving debut novel about a foster child learning to open her heart to a family's loveA heart-breaking and heart-warming debut book from Lynda Mullaly Hunt, ONE FOR THE MURPHYS is a beautiful story of family perfect for middle grade readers (and adults!). It's about hope and unsureness and loss and love and friendship and caring and happiness and sadness and possibility and belonging and what it really means to be family. Carley and Toni and the Murphys are all a fantastic cast of characters who I just wanted to hang out with and hug. Adore Michael Eric and Adam - there's something about well-drawn brothers in books that always gets to me (probably because I have two of my own). And the way in which this story is written, with each chapter being its own kind of vignette of something that happens after Carley is sent to be fostered by the Murphys, is astounding in its ability to draw the reader into the story emotionally. The chapters are short and the whole story takes place over 80 days, but it is utterly impactful. One of the strongest themes throughout the book is the idea of an everyday person being a hero in someone's life. The ways in which you can be a hero to someone else are endless, and it's a gentle call to arms to do so. I love how this is prevalent in the book, but in a non-preachy kind of way.
Carley uses humor and street smarts to keep her emotional walls high and thick. But the day she becomes a foster child, and moves in with the Murphys, she's blindsided. This loving, bustling family shows Carley the stable family life she never thought existed, and she feels like an alien in their cookie-cutter-perfect household. Despite her resistance, the Murphys eventually show her what it feels like to belong--until her mother wants her back and Carley has to decide where and how to live. She's not really a Murphy, but the gifts they've given her have opened up a new future.
Although I don't know from personal experience, what left an impression was how real and honest the emotions and feelings of this character felt for what I imagine a child in foster care would be going through. I adored this story, and the Carley, from the very start and my heart warmed and broke along with her as she traveled this journey of self-discovery and acceptance and finding strength and love. I want to hand this book off to every teacher and parent I know and I imagine there will be so many students for whom this type of story will resonate. Although Carley is in 8th grade, this book can definitely be read younger as well. Who doesn't want a family to love and take care of them? If you haven't yet read ONE FOR THE MURPHYS, I recommend you do yourself a favor and get to it soon.
I look forward to seeing what Lynda Mullaly Hunt will write next, and according to her website, her next middle grade book will be ALPHABET SOUP releasing in spring 2014. I'll definitely be reading that one after enjoying ONE FOR THE MURPHYS so much.