Finding Esme
book review,  Books

Review: Finding Esme by Suzanne Crowley

I’m delighted to share the Middle-Grade book FINDING ESME. From the pretty cover design on the outside to the engaging, warm-hearted (and sometimes heart-tugging) story on the inside, this was a book that I wasn’t ready to put down. Read on to find out what about this book reeled me in and enter the giveaway for a chance of one of two prize packs which include a copy of the book, candle, pen, and more!

Many thanks to the author for providing me with a copy of the book.

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Genre: Middle Grade (3-7) / Magical Realism / Family & Loss
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Date of Publication: August 14, 2018
Number of Pages: 288


Cover image for Finding Esme

After her grandfather died from a heart attack while driving his tractor on Solace Hill, twelve-year-old Esme’s been inextricably drawn to that spot, although her grandmother warns her to stay away. But when she follows her little brother, Bo, and her dog, Old Jack, up the hill while chasing fireflies, she makes an incredible discovery—dinosaur bones peeking out from underneath the abandoned tractor.

The bones must be a message from her grandfather, a connection from beyond the grave. But when word gets out that the farm is hiding something valuable, reporters, researchers, and neighbors arrive in droves. Esme struggles to understand who has her best interests at heart, especially as the memory of her grandfather begins to slip away.

Full of friendship and adventure, and featuring a palpable Texas setting, Finding Esme is a moving and heartfelt story about family, friendship, and learning to deal with loss.


“Esme is a brave, appealing heroine with the odds stacked against her… Bad blood and layered family secrets drive this story to its ultimately optimistic and satisfying conclusion.” — Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)

“Esme McCauley is a lonely but spirited 12-year-old who feels nothing ever happens to her the way it’s supposed to…A poignant tale for readers who enjoy character-driven realism.” — School Library Journal

“Readers muddling through preteen changes or unstable family lives will identify with Esme’s struggles, but the thrill of discovery will appeal to most.” — Booklist

Texas Library Association 2019 Spirit of Texas (SPOT) reading program selection



Finding Esme is a quiet, lovely coming-of-age story. It’s also a story about family, friendship, and loss. The latter is the most interesting to me because both Esme and her grandmother Bee have the gift of finding things that have been lost, but some the things Esme needs the most are the things she can’t find or recover – her Paps, answers she seeks, and a connection with her parents, June Rain and Harlan.

While Finding Esme is a tale intended for a Middle Grade audience, I think it has an ageless, universal appeal because of its depth and emotion. Crowley has crafted interesting, quirky, complex characters that pull you into the story.

Esme is spunky, brave, and loyal. Her family situation is complicated: raised by her grandparents due to a physically absent father and an emotionally absent (but present) mother, they are struggling financially after the passing of her grandfather, Paps. Crowley brought so much emotion to Esme’s story – her feelings of loss and longing particularly struck me, as did her need for understanding (and mine) of why June Rain was so disconnected as a parent.

“Sweetmaw bustled back to work, but I saw her discreetly wipe a tear away. Seeing June Rain like that, holding that piglet and knowing she never held me, or sang to me, really made me sad too. Sometimes when we watched Saturday morning cartoons with Bo – me in front of her on the floor, she sitting in Paps’s old chair – she would braid my hair. Sometimes I’d tell her I didn’t like my braid pinched, so I could feel her fingers in my hair one more time.”

Suzanne Crowley, Finding Esme

How my heart broke for Esme over and over, but then she’d make me smile with her spirit and her spunk.

This is also a story layered with relationships: between Esme and Bee, the grandmother with whom she shares the “gift” of finding things (is it a gift, or a curse?); between Esme and her best friend Finch, whose home life is even harder than hers, and with whom the bonds of friendship are tested; between Esme and June Rain, her mother who is disconnected from Esme as a parent, and often disconnected from the world in general. Add in the strained and awkward relationships between various other characters: Bee and Sweetmaw, Bee and Miss Vera, where history and grudges have long lingered.

I think we’ve all had something that felt like our last connection to someone special in our lives. The dinosaur bones were her connection with her beloved Paps, and so even her relationship, as it were, with Louella Goodbones was complicated and wrought with emotion.

The book offered a few twists before the mystery was resolved. This isn’t a long story, and I found myself slowing down when I realized the end was quickly approaching. However, there were a few questions left unanswered at the end of the story that I wish had been addressed. Certainly, this was a story where I wasn’t ready to let go of the main character – she had wound her way into my heart.

“I lifted my face up to the sky, opening my mouth to catch what I could, relishing the sweetness of it. I thought about Paps, and how he barely said a word o me but I knew he loved me just the same. I’d always been quiet, too, holding all those worries in, but I felt different now. A new me was opening up. I wasn’t sure what it all meant.”

Suzanne Crowley, Finding Esme


Book graphic for Finding Esme

Suzanne Crowley, author of Finding Esme

Suzanne Crowley is the author of two acclaimed novels for young readers, The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous and The Stolen One. The author, who is also a miniaturist and dollhouse collector whose work has graced the covers of magazines worldwide, was born in a small town in Texas and lives in Southlake, Texas. When not hugging her dog or imbibing in chocolate, she can often be found taking a nap.

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February 11-21, 2020
(U.S. Only)

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