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Nine Open Arms

by Benny Lindelauf
Translated by John Nieuwenhuizen from the Dutch

Published by U.S. edition: Enchanted Lion, 2014
256 pages
ISBN: 978-1-59270-145-9

Ages 10-13

Fing has moved with her family into a house called Nine Open Arms. Located at the end of a lonely road outside a village near the Dutch border with Germany, it’s the most recent in a series of places they’ve lived since her mother’s death. Fing and her sisters, spitfire Muhlke and timid Jess, spend time together while their four older brothers help their dreamer of a father with his latest, well-intentioned moneymaking plan. The girls trek to the village to attend school, and ponder their home’s oddities, including an extraordinary carved bed with a headboard that looks like a tombstone in one of the cellars, a front door knee-height off the ground, and prodigious leaking with the first heavy rain. Later they discover Oompah, a mute, homeless tailor, has set up house in the hedgerow. It turns out the children’s maternal grandmother Oma Mei, who oversees the family’s life with stern affection, knows the history of Nine Open Arms but is reluctant to reveal it. When she finally tells the story of Charley Bottletop and Nienevee, the Traveler girl who captured his heart, a tale of pain and love and prejudice and pride, it seems like it was fated that Fing’s family come to Nine Open Arms, to release the house from the past, and to plant themselves firmly in ground where they can grow. In a story told with humor and great affection, Fing discovers that Nine Open Arms, like her family, is marked by displacement and determination, loss and, above all, love and hope.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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