HALFWAY TO HARMONY, by Barbara O’Connor, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Jan. 12, 2021, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-12)
Acclaimed author Barbara O’Connor delivers another heartfelt middle-grade novel with Halfway to Harmony.
Walter Tipple is looking for adventure. He keeps having a dream that his big brother, Tank, appears before him and says, “Let’s you and me go see my world, little man.” But Tank went to the army and never came home, and Walter doesn’t know how to see the world without him.
Then he meets Posey, the brash new girl from next door, and an eccentric man named Banjo, who’s off on a bodacious adventure of his own. What follows is a summer of taking chances, becoming braver, and making friends―and maybe Walter can learn who he wants to be without the brother he always wanted to be like. —Synopsis provided by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Halfway to Harmony has a timeless feel to it. Though obviously set more recently than not, I never got a full sense of when the story takes place. And that’s OK. The events surrounding these few weeks in Walter’s life focus on a sense of place instead.
From Walter and Posey to Banjo and Posey’s mom, all the characters in Halfway to Harmony have weight to them. Walter’s trepidation is balanced by Posey’s self-assurance, and Banjo’s bravado is something to behold. As the book moves forward, you see true progression in Walter and Posey. And you can’t help but smile and shake your head at Banjo’s antics.
My favorite moments in Halfway to Harmony are the simplest. When Walter allows himself to breathe, to live in the moment, there’s a beautiful calmness that envelopes you as a reader. O’Connor uses these moments for differing emotions with great ease.
Halfway to Harmony tends to be on the more quiet side as far as middle grade novels go, but it should appeal to a large cross-section of readers.
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