THE MOST PERFECT THING IN THE UNIVERSE, by Tricia Springstubb, Margaret Ferguson Books, June 1, 2021, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 9-12)
A young homebody is forced to think outside of the box in Tricia Springstubb’s The Most Perfect Thing in the Universe.
Eleven-year-old Loah Londonderry is definitely a homebody. While her mother, a noted ornithologist, works to save the endangered birds of the shrinking Arctic tundra, Loah anxiously counts the days till her return home. But then, to Loah’s surprise and dismay, Dr. Londonderry decides to set off on a perilous solo quest to find the Loah bird, long believed extinct. Does her mother care more deeply about Loah the bird than Loah her daughter?
Things get worse yet when Loah’s elderly caretakers fall ill and she finds herself all alone except for her friend Ellis. Ellis has big problems of her own, but she believes in Loah. She’s certain Loah has strengths that are hidden yet wonderful, like the golden feather tucked away on her namesake bird’s wing. When Dr. Londonderry’s expedition goes terribly wrong, Loah needs to discover for herself whether she has the courage and heart to find help for her mother, lost at the top of the world. —Synopsis provided by Margaret Ferguson Books
Why is it that some of the best books have some of the most well-meaning but absent parents? The Most Perfect Thing in the Universe is the fourth middle-grade novel I’ve read in the past month with the same basic premise — mom or dad is far away working and child is left behind with caretakers but ends up pretty much fending for themselves. Sure, it makes for some great storytelling, but as a parent myself, I’d love to wring the parents’ collective necks!
In the case of The Most Perfect Thing in the Universe, Loah understands her mom’s work is important, but wonders why she ranks lower than the bird she’s named after. But even so, Loah’s pretty happy with her current situation. Her unadventurous nature keeps her under the radar, and even though others think her house is creepy, she’s rather fond of its turret.
Loah doesn’t even mind her caretakers too much. Though the Rinkers are elderly and beyond frugal, they seem to care for her. When circumstances beyond her control force Loah outside her comfort zone, she takes it in stride, learning she’s braver than she thought. The transformation starts with a simple bike ride and evolves into something much more.
And it’s this transition that makes The Most Perfect Thing in the Universe shine. The book is as much a character study as it is a story. Author Tricia Springstubb brings Loah and her surroundings deftly to life. Her prose is quiet and calm, easing readers into each situation with a gentle nudge rather than a hard push.
The Most Perfect Thing in the Universe is a good option for readers who are looking for something a little different. It has a special quality to it that rings true throughout.