Book Review: Finding Esme by Suzanne Crowley

While my #writinglife has taken a bit of detour this year, I’m excited to share my favorite read of 2020 so far! I know, I know, you’re probably thinking, what about the other ten and half months of the year? To which I would reply, “I’m old enough, and have been around this business long enough to simply know what’s golden.” And let me tell you, Finding Esme is a diamond in the rough. 

I continue to be impressed by the caliber of authors Lone Star Book Blog Tours has brought my way. I’m especially proud to help give back to the #writingcommunity I love. But enough gushing, you’re here for bookish chat and goodies! Before I share my review of Suzanne Crowley’s excellent Middle Grade Mystery, a little info about the book.




Genre: Middle Grade (3-7) / Magical Realism / Family & Loss

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Date of Publication: August 14, 2018

Number of Pages: 288

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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.


goodreads link

“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


5 of 5 Stars

Finding Esme is a family saga, mystery, and coming of age story spun from pure gold by author Suzanne Crowley. The fact it’s written for children doesn’t detract from the fact this is a brilliantly crafted story. Rich in language and voice, this book has everything you hope to find in a Southern Gothic novel. Bold colors and a taste for peaches and adventure flavor the cover design and immediately pull the reader in. A book is always judged by its cover, and in the case of Finding Esme, the inside matched the power of the cover’s imagery in every way. 

Twelve-year-old Esme and her little brother aren’t orphans, but their parents checked out long ago. Instead, they have their grandmother Bee, a force of nature in her own right as their guardian. There’s also Finch, Esme’s best and only friend, who while poor, may be the smartest boy she knows. Bee does the best she can to run the peach farm and teach Esme the business of “finding.” But there are some things Bee can’t find, like Esme’s missing father, or a way to keep from losing their home to the bank. Esme only wishes her paps were still alive. She wishes so hard, she follows his ghost to discover the mysterious bones waiting at the top of a hill.

Finding Esme is full of characters who seemed almost ethereal, lost between the past and unwillingness to face the ugly present. Each person has a place and purpose in Esme’s story, as they help her find who she is and who she could become. Personal favorites include the loveable brainy Finch, and their old neighbor Miss Lilah, who might have once loved Esme’s grandfather. Here is a coming of age story of a girl caught in the crux between childhood and adulthood. Between whispered rumors from the townsfolk and her family, Esme can almost piece the puzzle together. But it isn’t until she finds the courage to give voice to and ask the difficult questions that the secrets surrounding Esme unravel.

While this is written for middle-grade, there are so many nuanced layers woven in such a way as to pull the reader in and let them slip on Esme’s shoes. I could almost feel the Texas summer heat as Esme chased fireflies, tasted the honey from the hives, and smelled the fun candy flavors that always hovered around Finch. The setting feels timeless, and the many minuscule details simply another aspect of Esme’s world and just as natural. It allows Finding Esme to be something more than a period piece or a gothic mystery. This is Esme’s story but in a magical way, the author allows it to be our story too for a time.

**I was provided with a copy of Finding Esme by the author and this is my voluntary and honest review.**

book trailer


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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5 thoughts on “Book Review: Finding Esme by Suzanne Crowley

  1. Hallo, Hallo Ms Silverwood,

    You and I both get dearly attached to stories which heart-connect us to their world, their characters and we simply know a golden story amongst the batches released when we first step over their threshold! I truly can relate to this statement because I oft reflect about my attachment to the #LelandDragons series and it is that of kinetic connection which doesn’t always come along but when you find it? You latch onto it – you become a book cheerleader for the author and you try to encourage others to seek it out! Such a wicked thing to have in common, eh?

    I have been trying to seek out some more Gothic Mysteries but I am so dearly particular about the kinds that I want to be reading that I simply haven’t found a way to source them! Until now, of course! Part of your review was echoing why I loved the film “Coco” – I love stories which have this ethereal interior to them where the world is equally rooted in a world we can recognise but also eclipses that world to exchange it for the hidden layers of where a character can find self-growth out of not just experiences but the cadence of curiosity to seek the truths for themselves about the mysteries within their own lives.

    I truly was swept away by how you’re talking about this one and I am definitely going to be entering the bookaway! Even if I don’t win a copy I am going to ask my library to purchase one because I think you’re right – this is a book that needs to be discovered by a lot of different readers!! I also agree that MG & YA are not strictly for children anymore – they are for anyone who has the innocence and flexible mindset to re-embrace those worlds and see teh beauty of their messages. Everyone can read those stories and feel as illuminated and enchanted as the children they were originally writ to meet!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jorie, thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts ❤ And yes, I feel the same about stories with immersive characters and worldbuilding. It helped that I, also, grew up in small-town Texas. Many of the details of the folks and scents and feel of Esme's world were echos of my memories.
      It'd certainly something I aspire to incorporate into my work too 🙂 For me, that is what transcends fiction to becoming our temporary reality, when we can slip into the characters' shoes!
      You should absolutely seek out a copy of this book! Like I wrote, this was one of the best MG books I've read in years. I haven't enjoyed MG fiction so much since devouring the works of Gail Carson Levin, and look forward to more from Suzanne Crowley 😀
      Hope you enjoy Finding Esme as much as I did!

      Liked by 1 person

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