Miracle on Separation Street by Bob Graham
Series: Racing Read. Walker Books, London, 2010. ISBN 978 1406324617.
(Ages 8+) Mum works hard to get the money to buy the family a car. She works at night, cleaning a store, and the boys, Jack and Duggie often go with her to watch. She has decided that they need a car, after not having one for many years, so that they too, can visit the airport and watch the big planes go overhead, and drive to school or go on holidays. The purchase of the car is a big decision within the family so when it is stolen only days after they brought it home, they are distraught. Jack looks suspiciously at the Mob, the basketballing group of boys in the courtyard, while dad looks at the skateboarding boys in the square, and mum asks Francesca, the grumpy woman upstairs, if she has seen anything. They cannot claim it on insurance as they were unable to afford the premiums, and when they tell the police, they are told that this happens all the time. So when the car just as mysteriously returns to its place by the flats, with a note attached explaining its disappearance, the family is amazed, and mum uses the word miracle, a word she never uses, to explain what has happened.
Told in Bob Graham's pared down prose, making the most of every word and nuance of meaning, the story of this everyday family is at once endearing and enlightening. Their very ordinariness underlines the wonderful event which happens in their lives, and makes the readers smile with recognition and wonder. Within the series, Racing Read, this small book of about 90 pages, with well spaced, clear print, wide margins and Graham's wonderful drawings on many pages, will have wide appeal to those readers embarking on chapter books. The gentle storyline told with humour will please all comers, as they recognize the people in the story and the adage, don't judge a book by its cover.