Into the Wind by William Loizeaux is a children’s story about how an unlikely friendship develops between a young boy and an older woman in a wheelchair. It takes place during a difficult summer for both on the island where they live. After Rusty’s mother is admitted to an inpatient treatment facility on the mainland for depression, Rusty’s neighbor gives him an old sailboat that he works on repairing and learning how to sail. Hazel is a widow whose family lives far away on the west coast, and she hires Rusty to do odd jobs around the house for her to earn a bit of money. As they spend time together, the two find that they share an unexpected connection.
The author has an engaging writing style that will draw readers into the story. The main character is relatable and believable, with a sometimes humorous point of view. This heartwarming story takes place on an island, and the author’s descriptions of the boats and water paint a vivid picture of the quaint tourist town where Rusty and his family lived. I could easily imagine the smell of the sea and the sound of the seagulls as they flew over the boats tied to the dock as though I was experiencing what Rusty did in the story.
I learned a lot of interesting things about sailing while reading this book, and I liked that various sailing terms were explained organically throughout the story for readers who are not familiar with sailboats. The author also includes a glossary of nautical terms at the end of the book. Watching the friendship between Rusty and Hazel is magical. Two people so different, in different stages of life, can find common ground and connect on a deep emotional level. They are both going through some challenging moments in their lives, and spending time with each other helped them cope.
This memorable book includes illustrations by Laura Jacobsen. They are done in shades of gray, like pencil drawings. They really add to the story as they are sparsely used and added to key moments in the story. My favorite was the image of Rusty pushing Hazel through the park with cards clipped to her wheelchair wheels. The innocence and simplicity of the scene remind readers to hold onto the small moments in life.
Into the Wind is a middle grades level chapter book. This emotional story deals with friendship, compassion, death, and grief. It is a wonderful story to help kids learn about love and loss and about the importance of treasuring the moments you have with people.
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