Alice Rice is nine (going on 10), and likes things to be the way they are supposed to be: neat, organized, simple. Unfortunately, in Kevin Henkes’ Junonia, nothing goes as planned. On their annual trip to Sanibel Island in Florida, Alice and her family discover that most of the people who usually join them for their visit are staying at home—and the one family friend who will be coming is bringing her new boyfriend and his six-year-old daughter, Mallory.

The one thing Alice loves above all else is hunting for seashells along the beach. She will pick up any shell but is most interested in rare shells, especially the Junonia. Shell hunting changes, though, when Alice is made to hunt with grumpy, whiny Mallory and her tattered doll Munchkey. Yet soon Mallory and Alice begin to see they may have something in common.

Henkes’ heartwarming story is enriched by his beautiful illustrations on the endpapers and at the beginning of each chapter. He creates a very full book in relatively few pages through his well-chosen words. Like Alice finding rare shells on the beach, readers will find rich, evocative, image-filled language sprinkled throughout the book: Alice’s hands have that “wonderful, warm sunscreen smell” and the ocean crests are as “strips of lace laid out on folds of steel blue cloth.”

Junonia’s plot builds quietly, with the gentle crests and valleys of the ocean on a breezy day. Henkes relies not on twists and jerks to tear your breath from you, but instead on lushly worded phrases and tender moments between families to take your breath away.

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