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Book Review of Trusting True North by Gina Linko
What is True North? Jessie Krebs describes it this way:
True north, also known as geographic north or geodetic north, is the direction of the North Pole, the northernmost point of the Earth’s rotational axis. On a geological survey map, lines of longitude that span the globe from north to south mark the true north. The precise location of the Geographic North Pole is in the Arctic Ocean…and the shifting sea ice makes a fixed marker impractical.
True north is a fixed point, so it never moves or varies. Therefore, it should be quite trustworthy. In the book Trusting True North by Gina Linko, True North Vincent tries to live up to her name. Sometimes she fails, but sometimes she succeeds!
True North Vincent is struggling after spending months in lockdown because of a virus. With her mom stuck across the border in Canada and her dad working long hours as a nurse at the hospital, True feels responsible for making sure her family stays safe, especially her grandma and her younger brother, Georgie, whose asthma makes him more vulnerable to the virus. She also wishes her older sister, Rose, would be friends with her again instead of texting on her phone.
True finds escape and comfort in working on her maps, a skill she learned from her mother. To keep Georgie entertained, True creates an elaborate treasure map for him to follow that spans the forest beyond her backyard. While exploring, they find a litter of newborn kittens in an old barn. The smallest kitten looks sickly and has been abandoned by the mama cat. True names her Teacup; she knows exactly how it feels to not have a mom around when you need her the most.
True also meets Kyler, who wants to care for the kittens, and True realizes he might not be the bully everyone thinks he is. But when both Teacup and Kyler get sick, True is afraid she won’t be able to help everyone all by herself.
Running out of her own fixes and remedies, True reaches out and realizes that her family does care about her and wants to offer support and guidance to help her find her way through the unexpected challenges the virus and life bring. In the end, Trusting True North teaches some great lessons and gives young readers a safe environment to process their thoughts and emotions about the experiences they faced, and face, during the pandemic.
My Book Review:
I feel True North’s pain. We all do. After over two years of lockdowns, masks, viruses, e-learning, and fear, I think most of us are ready for it to be over and to be free of the stress of all of it. True gets into some situations that are a little over her head, and she doesn’t know how to get out of them by herself. She learns that she can’t do everything on her own. True learns that she needs to rely on other people for help.
To be honest, since we’re still living this, it seems a little too soon, but at the same time, it’s probably good for the middle-graders and YA to read this book. It will most likely help these kids process their feelings about the pandemic, and everything that goes with it, in a safe place.
True finally gets the chance to get out of the house, takes her younger brother out for a walk, gets lost, and ends up in a neighbor’s barn. This chain of events leads to her a place where she lies to cover up her mistakes, and she puts her brother’s and grandma’s health in danger. Then, her friend needs help. If she were to get help, all her lies would be known. True needs to decide in this moment where her “true north” is, and if she is courageous enough to do what needs to be done.
Overall, I liked this book. The writing style pulls you in and makes you love and care for the characters. It’s well written and engaging. I struggled with it a bit because I’m a mom and True was not making good choices. I wanted to scream at her through the pages to stop! It was cringy for me in that aspect. Now, the truth catches up with True and she must own up to all of it, which is good because it teaches young readers that there are consequences for their actions.
Although there were some poor choices made along the way, the story ends well. There are some great lessons taught along the way. True learns the importance of family and trusting her parents. She learns to tell the truth and that rules are usually there for a reason. True learns that she is not infallible and that she needs to be careful, especially if other’s lives are involved. There are also some mental health lessons. True has some anxiety, and she learns that she cannot do everything on her own—asking for help is okay!!
Content Rating: PG (It’s clean. It has a heavier theme of living in a pandemic, but all today’s kids are living it now anyway. There are a few characters that are sick, which may worry some young readers.)
Age Recommendation: Middle-Graders (4th-6th) and up
My Rating: 3/5
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.