Monday, July 3, 2023

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with a review of The Fire, the Water, and Maudie McGinn by Sally J. Pla

The Fire, The Water, and Maudie McGinn by Sally J. Pla
Publisher:  Quill Tree Books
Format:  E-ARC
Number of pages: 336 pages
Publishing:   July 11th, 2023
Source:  Blue Slip Media 

Opening Lines:  "I learned this great calm-down trick recently."

During the school year, Maudie lives with her mom and stepdad, Ron in Houston, Texas.  Summers are with her dad in Molinas at their mountain cabin.  But this year, Maudie's time with her dad will be different, she has a secret that she hasn't shared with him yet.  She's not even sure if she can, mostly because she promised her mom that she wouldn't tell, and she's worried about the ramifications if she does.  Will this make her stepdad angrier than he already gets?  Could she loose both her mom and dad, like her mom keeps threatening?   Maybe it's better if she just keeps this secret buried deep down.

Then news of a wildfire in their area comes and causes them to temporarily move into an emergency shelter.  Mom threatens to come and pick Maudie up unless her dad can find something more permanent for them.  Luckily Naldo, a childhood friend of her dad's steps in and gives them a trailer on his campground close to the beach while her dad goes job hunting.  Maudie starts to settle in and becomes instantly enamored by the waves and especially watching the surfers.  She really wants to learn to do what the other surfers do.  Soon she's making friends with Begonia, Naldo's niece and Etta a former professional surfboarder who offers to help teach her how to surf.  Maudie also makes friends with Paddi, a girl who's a year younger who has ADHD and goes to a school run by her mom, Dr. Shakti.  The school is specially designed for neurodivergent students. 

Each morning, Maudie has her breakfast, goes down to Conwy Beach and starts taking lessons with Etta in hopes of entering the years end Beach Bash beginners surf competition and  maybe even win the thousand dollar prize money.  Slowly Maudie begins to progress and she's super excited about the competition, until her mom and Ron show up early wanting to take her home.  After forcing her into the car and taking her to the hotel to catch an early flight back to Texas, Maudie decides she has to run away and makes her way back to the beach so she can compete in the surfing competition.  Maudie knows that her decision will change everything, but maybe it's the change that needs to happen.

I liked the way the story seems to place you inside Maudie's head.  You get a sense for her emotions and hear all her inner thoughts.  All the insults and negative comments she's received play over and over in her mind.  The verse intermingled with the story worked well here to reflect Maudie's thoughts and how sometimes they get scattered.  It's a place filled with doubts, insecurities, glitches as she calls them and moments that require more processing time.  One can really see the challenges she faces and how the overstimulation in her environment affects her.  Maudie's mom and Ron certainly don't get it and try to change her into what they want her to be.  Maudie's always adapted and molded herself to fit, but they never saw the beauty that she already is.  I love the changes that take place in Maudie over the course of her summer with her dad.  It's a testament to what kind, loving people can do for us in our lives.  I just adored Maudie's dad, the way that he calmly talks to her, adapts his communication to fit her needs and offers her strategies when she has a panic attack.  The most beautiful moments are when Maudie and her dad are conversing.  Especially when he explains that he also had panic attacks when he was younger and that their brain differences are so similar.  I love how this bond they share allows her to begin to open up and share all her worries with him.  Sharing her fears in the end, is what frees her up to live happily.  A truly beautiful story with a lovely happy ending that brought a tear to my eye.      

   I hope you'll check out all the other Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday posts at Greg Pattridge's blog HERE


  1. Thank you for such a thoughtful review of this story, Brenda! I hadn't seen it before, but it sounds so powerful. It's frustrating to see that Maudie's mom and Ron are unwilling to see Maudie for who she is, but I'm glad her dad is there to counteract that. And it sounds like Maudie has a well-thought-out rationale for running away, which I would love to see, because I feel like MG books sometimes have kids run away without having considered the consequences. I really appreciate you sharing about this book today!

  2. It sounds a very heart-warming story, and I am so glad there is a happy ending! The relationship between Maudie and her Dad sounds wonderful. :)

  3. I also thoroughly enjoyed Maudie's story. Her Mom and step dad were a real testament for how not to deal with a child. I'll be posting my review next week. Thanks for being a part of this holiday edition of MMGM.

  4. This sounds like a complicated, but yet believable story. Surfing too! Kids will relate to the drama in this book.

  5. Glad you enjoyed this one so much. Maudie has a lot to cope with in this story. It must be good if it brought a tear to your eyes. Thanks for sharing it with us this week.

  6. I really like the sound of this one. The title is great, and the story sounds like one I would like. I'm putting it on my TBR list. Thanks for your great review.