This young-readers mystery by a two-time Newbery Medal winner is full of the qualities that make for a Newbery book. It is educational but at the same time suspenseful, emotionally intense and rich in characterization.
13-year-old best friends Branwell and Connor talk to each other about everything; but when a pretty young English au pair arrives to take care of Branwells infant half-sister, something changes in their friendship. Connor notices Branwell becoming more silent and distant. Six weeks later the child, Nikki, is seriously hurt and left in a coma. The au pairblames Branwell. He has nothing to say for himself. In fact, since the accident, he either cannot or will not say a word to anybody. As little Nikki struggles for life, it looks as if Bran may take the blame for hurting her.
Only his best friend, Connor, doesnt believe he did any such thing. And Connor goes to see Branwell every day, working to break down the wall of silence that keeps him from telling what really happened the day Nikki was hurt. Aided by his own half-sister, Margaret, and what little communication he is able to establish with his speechless friend, Connor carries on his own investigation. And what he finds may prove either the severest test or the greatest proof of his friendship with Bran.
There are complex people in this book–some of them are a bit sinister, others rather pitiful–but Connor is a sympathetic narrator. You sympathize with him even when he is not behaving particularly well; and through him, you learn to sympathize even with some twisted and broken people. I am touched by his loyalty to Bran and deeply moved by the dilemma in which Bran finds himself. It saddens me to think how many families, how many lives, have been destroyed because someone was too ashamed to speak. The question Could that happen to us? and the question Will that happen to Bran and his family? will keep you turning the pages, more and more eagerly, up to the storys perfect ending.