The Romeo and Juliet Code by Phoebe Stone (2011)

As I walked back towards the house with Aunt Miami, Uncle Gideon tried to interst me in several more seashells, but my eyes were all blurry. I actually only cried about five teardrops. I as counting them to keep the sadness away. I found out that one eye cried more than the other eye, or else a few tears got away without being accounted for (p 6).

the_romeo_and_juliet_codeFelicity Bathborn Budwig is eleven years old when her British mother, Winnie, and her American father, Danny, drop her off at her the Bathborn residence in Bottlebay, Maine, USA. It’s 1941 and the Germans are bombing London. Felicity will be safer in Bottlebay with her father’s family. Felicity doesn’t understand why her parents return to England, why her Uncle Gideon and The Gram are angry with Danny, nor why she is restricted from entering a certain room in the house. Then letters, with Danny’s handwriting, arrive from Portugal but Uncle Gideon keeps them locked up.

Then Felicity mets Derek, a boy who has lost the use of his left arm because he was sick with polio. Together, they find and copy the letters from Danny. The only problem is the letters are written in code.

This is a lovely story about a girl neglected for the greater good, a family built on and torn apart by love and the secrets people keep.  It reminded me of Moon Over Manifest, another historical fiction novel about family and tied to a war, but it was a lot less dense than the 2010 Newbery winner. Wink, Felicity’s stuffed pillow, became very dear to me and reminded me of my own Mr. Bear.

Several people have commented on the cover, and while it is very misleading, it got me to pick up the book. I think a cover of romeo cookies with pink frosting would have worked just as well.

Pair with: Moon Over Manifest by Claire Vanderpool, Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm, The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall, Countdown by Deborah Wiles, and Shooting the Moon by Frances O’Roark Dowell.

Read other reviews:
Collecting Children’s Books
Consumed by Books
Kirkus
Ms. Yingling Reads
PIPEDREAMING
Publisher’s Weekly (starred)

For notes on the cover, see History in 2011: Conveying or Concealing the Past? by Fuse #8

Library copy (print) | Arthur A. Levine Books | January 1, 2011 | 304 pages| ISBN: 978-0545215114 | Ages 8-12 | $16.99

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