Homeschooled ten-year-old Alexa has just moved from New York City to the fictional college town of Sundog, Minnesota. Middle-grade novel THE HOWLING VOWELS follows Alexa’s transition from big city to small town. Initially, Alexa frets about the move. Will she make friends? Will she be bored? Will she miss Manhattan? Indeed, she does make friends; at Irish dance class, at the library where she meets other homeschoolers, and at the local park. She bonds with a core “pack” of friends who call themselves the howling vowels because of their names – Alexa, Eduardo, Isabel, Otto, and Ursula.
In her new environment, Alexa enjoys experiences she never had opportunities for in the city. She and her friends participate in a entertainment show to raise funds for the local library. She goes trick-or-treating on Halloween. She and her parents host a large Thanksgiving dinner – a big change from their usual lonely Thanksgivings at a Chinese restaurant. She goes caroling in December and Christmas tree shopping at a tree farm.
Another first for Alexa is having her 10th birthday party at a neighbor’s backyard swimming pool. She receives a video camera from her parents and becomes interested in filmmaking, and enters a young filmmakers’ competition. Does she have a shot at winning?
Within a year of moving, Alexa realizes she loves her life in Sundog and considers Minnesota “home.” Gifted and precocious, she naturally tells her story with some rather advanced vocabulary. Several words and terms will stump most 4-6th graders. The author thoughtfully wrote a thorough glossary at the end of the book. As novels go, this one lacks the usual conflict and intense drama that draws a reader in and keeps the pages turning. But it’s a pleasant read, well-written with fresh similes. The story may especially appeal to gifted homeschooled students who might identify with Alexa’s quirkiness, eccentricities, and thirst for knowledge. This book was released in November 2011.