Trowbridge Road presents difficult life circumstances with a delicate touch | Mentoring in the Middle

Trowbridge Road presents difficult life circumstances with a delicate touch

 How did I manage to miss this book when it came out in October 2020?  

A friend lent me a copy to read, recently.  And this is not one you want to miss.  Keep reading...

The cover of Trowbridge Road by Marcella Pixley with my positive comment

There are so many things to like about this dark, complicated, hope-filled novel! Let's start with Marcella Pixley's writing, which is lush and descriptive and would make for a wonderful book for the right middle-grade student.

"It was clear that the summer was about to change as soon as Jenny Karlo's rusty old Chevy came clattering down Trowbridge Road at a quarter past two, the radio pounding heavy metal into the neighborhood, shattering the lazy Thursday afternoon like a rock through a dusty window."

Let's talk about the cast of characters: June Bug, her mother, and her uncle Toby, Ziggy, his mother Jenny, and his grandmother Nana Jean. June Bug's father has recently died of AIDS, and her mother's spiral into depression has left her barely able to hang on. A former musician, playing the cello is the only thing that makes her feel alive. She hides under the covers all day, unable to feed her 10-year-old daughter, and only comes out to scrub the house down from top to bottom.

June Bug loves nothing better than to climb the copper beech tree next to Nana Jean’s house and watch the world go by, imagining herself in the lives of the people she watches. That is, until Jenny drops her son, Ziggy, off at her mother’s for a while. Nana Jean embraces Ziggy, sharing food and as much love as she can give him. Because Ziggy, too, has a secret that he keeps from the world.

June Bug and Ziggy (and his pet ferret, Matthew) become fast friends, and the pages of how they enter the ninth realm, and how they create Majestica are filled with the colorful imaginations of children. I was reminded of A Bridge to Terabithia on more than one occasion. Pixley creates a world where children find their way, creating worlds over which they have some control. The two children’s acceptance of each other and how they become safe spaces for one another is heartwarming.

There are many difficult life circumstances discussed in this book, and for that reason, it would take a compassionate and willing teacher to walk through this book with students. But I would encourage it.  Our students are more familiar with some of these than we know.  Mental health, obsessive compulsions, alcoholism, loneliness, bullying, and physical abuse are big topics alone, but with the children’s large hearts, and the love surrounding them, this ultimately is a book filled with hope.

“And now I know another truth too. A daughter can tell her story and the house can stay standing and the floor can stay whole. A daughter can tell the truth and a mother can listen.”

May it be so.

  • Click here to read my review of this year's Newbery Award winner, Freewater, by Amina Luqman-Dawson.

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