by Amber McRee Turner
Published 2014 by Disney Hyperion
Twelve-year-old Circa Monroe has a knack for restoring old photographs. It's a skill she learned from her dad, who loves old pictures and putting fun digital twists on them. His altered "Shopt" photos look so real that they could fool nearly anybody, and Circa treasures the fun stories he makes up to explain each creation.
One day, her father receives a strange phone call requesting an urgent delivery, and he heads out into a storm. The unimaginable happens: a tornado, then a terrible accident. Just as Circa and her mom begin to pick up the pieces, a mysterious boy shows up on their doorstep, a boy called Miles who remembers nothing about his past. The only thing he has with him is the photograph that Circa's dad intended to deliver on the day he died.
As Circa tries to help Miles recover his identity, she begins to notice something strange about the photos she and her father retouched-the digital flourishes added to the old photos seem to exist in real life. The mysteries of the Shopt photos and Miles's past are intertwined, and in order to solve both, Circa will have to figure out what's real and what's an illusion.
With stunning prose, captivating photographs, and a hint of magic, Circa Now is a gripping story full of hope and heart.
Kirkus Reviews had this to say about Circa Now, "Just a tinge of fantasy pervades this captivating tale of grief and acceptance and of the power of imagination."
I think this is a perfect description. The reader questions what is real and what is imaginary throughout this fascinating story. Circa's grief over the sudden loss of her father is very fresh when the stranger, who they call Miles, enters the story. She is also dealing with a mother who suffers from anxiety so severe, she rarely leaves the house as they try to find Miles' family.
One thing that brings Circa a bit of comfort, during while dealing with her grief, is working on photographs at her father's computer. Restoring and photoshopping pictures is something she and her father enjoyed doing together. As strange coincidences start to occur, Circa (along with the reader) begins to wonder if some of the things inserted into the "shopt" photos come true in "real life".
There are many layers to this story. With themes of grief, change, friendship, family, illness, compassion and a bit of mystery, Circa Now has much to offer middle grade readers. I would recommend this book for grades 4-6.