Grove Press: Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs

Hurricane Season

Sixth-grader Fig knows a lot about artist Vincent van Gogh now that she's studying his life in art class. Fig isn't interested in art but she enrolled because "art and music, the whole language her dad spoke and played and hummed, made very little sense to her." Fig's dad was once a famous pianist and composer; she believes that learning more about his "language" will help her connect with him. Now, though, he lives in extremes: buzzing with frantic energy, trying to create his art, or barely able to get out of bed, leaving Fig to fend for herself. When his erratic behavior leads Fig's teacher to call New Jersey's Child Protection and Permanency agency, Fig is terrified--it's the second incident in CP&P's file and they might "take him away from her." Fig knows how to take care of her dad, but as questions build, Fig wonders if her dad has more than art in common with Vincent van Gogh.

Hurricane Season, Nicole Melleby's debut, is a delicate storm. The relationship between Fig and her father is beautifully nuanced: Fig's father is sympathetic even at his most extreme; Fig often takes on the role of caregiver without realizing how heavily it weighs on her 11-year-old shoulders. While the relationship between Fig and her father is central, a moving side plot about her father's romantic life is paralleled with Fig's own first forays into love: she can't stop thinking about Hannah, the older girl who works at the library. Melleby deftly tackles weighty topics--mental illness, child protective services, single parenting, sexuality--while effortlessly weaving in elements of the life and works of Vincent van Gogh, creating a thoughtful, age-appropriate and impressive novel. --Kyla Paterno, former children's book buyer