Summary: Nothing Else But Miracles
It’s 1944 and Dory’s father has been joined the US Army in World War II, leaving behind 12-year-old Dory and her brothers, Fish (17) and Pike (7) with the parting words that the neighborhood will always give them what they need. So far, her father’s words have been true, with the neighborhood Italian restaurant Caputo’s offering them one free dinner a week and their neighbor sending them Polish food. But when the new landlord demands to see their father if they want to keep living there, the kids are in a fix.
At the same time, Dory discovers an old dumbwaiter (old school elevator) in Caputo’s, which she follows one night to a hideout beyond her expectations. Can the kids get the miracle they need to keep their home and get their father back in one piece?
I was a huge fan of Albus’s debut and this is another warm historical fiction with a lovable protagonist and her siblings. The Byrne kids are facing hard times. Fish is working as an apprentice and money from their father is unreliable, so the kids have to be frugal to get by. Albus does a great job of capturing the essence of New York City, even in wartime. Dory loves the Statue of Liberty and finds its presence grounding and like modern day New Yorkers, the kids get around mostly on foot. I loved seeing all the mundane daily activities.
In addition to the mundanities of life during wartime, there’s the old mysterious hotel Dory discovers, which opens a story within a story as she finds letters from two lovers. I loved the presence of the omniscient narrator as we see what Dory finds and what she doesn’t in the hotel. The author often breaks the fourth wall delightfully. I also enjoyed the scenes at Dory’s school and with her schoolmates, including Vincent who has a crush on her and whom Dory also maybe likes?
Finally, there is of course, the war and the hatred for Hitler — all of which the author navigates sensitively for young readers. Some of Dory’s classmates have very strong feelings about the situation and some even have parents like Dory’s fighting the war. One of the kids even loses a parent in death. This (although there are so many WW II stories) can be great conversation fodder for middle schoolers.
This one wasn’t as good as the author’s debut (which I admit is a high bar) and it very much feels like an ode to New York more than anything else. I also wish the mystery was more satisfying, but I think the author tried to keep things more realistic. All of these are personal qualms, but I know young readers will absolutely love this one.
Overall: Nothing Else But Miracles
Nothing Else But Miracles is a heartwarming, slice-of-life middle grade novel about New York City, family, and the safety of community. Set in 1940s New York, this book celebrates the city’s vibrance and the gift of the community within. It also highlights the adventures of a courageous, persevering protagonist who isn’t afraid to go against the grain. Lovers of historical fiction with a touch of mystery will love this release.
Here are some specifics to know about the content.
- Death: Mention of a parent who dies at war.
- Sexual content: One middle schooler kisses the other on the cheek, two teenagers hold hands
- Ethnic: Main characters are cued white
Recommended for ages: 9+
Good for kids who like:
“Twelve-year-old Dory Bryne is a tomboy. When her papa has to leave to go to war she is forced to be responsible. On on of her Thursday dinners she finds an abandoned elevator and this starts an adventure. This is a great mystery read! I loved it!”— rylee C., age 12
|Publisher details||Margaret Ferguson Books|
|Publication date:||September 5, 2023|
|Page count:||288 pages|
|Cover artists | Designer:||Gilbert Ford|
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