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The Great Unexpected

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  3,065 ratings  ·  476 reviews
Humorous and heartfelt, this is a story of pairs— of Sybil and Nula (sisters who grew up together in Rook’s Orchard, Ireland) and Naomi and Lizzie (both orphans in present day Blackbird Tree, USA)
and unraveling mysteries about family and identity. Naomi and Lizzie’s tragedies turn into a life filled with hope, as old misunderstandings and sorrows between Sybil and Nula gi...more
Published 2012
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Helen Maleeny Finn is the boy that the main character really likes. He is from Ireland, and likes to call the main character "tree girl".
Wonder by R.J. PalacioThe One and Only Ivan by Katherine ApplegateThe Fault in Our Stars by John GreenLiar & Spy by Rebecca SteadThe Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine
Newbery 2013
26th out of 116 books — 1,104 voters
The Graveyard Book by Neil GaimanThe Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. LewisThree Times Lucky by Sheila TurnageEscape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris GrabensteinWonder by R.J. Palacio
Best Reads for Tweens
40th out of 61 books — 6 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Cornmaven
One word for my reaction to this book: Meh. I was not bowled over by the tale, I think because I felt Creech tried to include far too many elements - fairies, Irish humor, strange degrees of separation, belonging, coming of age. The alternating back and forth between the characters and setting in Ireland, and those in America was kind of confusing too me, and I think it would be so for young readers, especially as the Irish chapters were an approximationg of brogue sometimes. When Creech finally...more
Hilary
Naomi and Lizzie, both orphans, have lived in Blackbird tree their whole lives with the kindly families that have taken them in. They are merely minding their own business one day when a boy falls out of a tree one day and knocks Naomi to the ground. At first they are sure he is dead, but then he gets up and introduces himself as Finn. They've never seen him before, and strangers don't come to Blackbird Tree often. Shortly after Finn's arrival another stranger comes to town and seems to be lurki...more
Barb Middleton
I work with a Lizzie-type person. She doesn't take a breath, rattling through conversations like an auctioneer. Sometimes I want to make the timeout sign with my hands, other times I marvel at her yapping tongue. Lizzie Scatterding is Naomi Deane's best friend who has a good heart, is melodramatic, and can be annoyingly talkative. Both girls are orphans living in the town of Blackbird Tree and their relationship and dialogue is one of the great strengths of this novel. Dizzy Lizzy repeats everyt...more
Kathy
This is a delightful book that I read in one sitting. Sharon Creech has done it again with this beautifully written and lyrical story. It is warm, witty, full of memorable and eccentric characters, secrets and coincidences, hidden meaning and life lessons for our children. As you begin to put the pieces of the puzzle of the story together it will remind you that we are all connected by that invisible thread and the actions of one many times affect the lives of others.

Naomi Deane and Lizzie Scatt...more
LauraW
Some of Sharon Creech's books are among my favorites, especially Walk Two Moons, but this one won't be.

The thing that most puzzles me about why this book didn't grab me is that one of the difficulties I had with the book was that I couldn't keep Lizzie and Naomi straight in my mind. This should NOT have been a problem, since Lizzie was the talker and Naomi was the dreamer. I think part of the problem is that Lizzie, the talker, wasn't the narrator of the book. So you end up with Naomi, the dream...more
Kara
What an unexpected delight! (See what I did there? ;) I found the audiobook at a library sale and snatched it up because Natalie had exclaimed over it (and she has yet to steer me wrong). Believe me when I say that this is an excellent middle grade novel. Ms. Creech takes a vast array of seemingly unconnectable characters and then gives hints little by little (keeping you turning pages or continuing to listen so you can find out what happens next) until there's an invisible thread connecting the...more
Charlyn  Trussell
(Reviewed ARC) Remember the game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon: it is alive and well in this book, but Kevin Bacon is never mentioned. No, it's the idea of connectedness, here, although you don't realize that until later. At first, it's just the story of two orphans, Naomi and Lizzie, their lives and how their lives are changed after the boy Finn falls out of tree. The girls and their guardians live in the town of Blackbird Tree; across the sea in Ireland, another story is being played out at Rook...more
Linda Lipko
This is yet another insightful, wonderful book by Sharon Creech.
Mentioned as a potential Newbery award winner for 2013, I hope Creech is successful in garnering her third Newbery award.

I loved Walk Two Moons, a Newbery medal winner in 1995. She won a Newbery honor in 2001 for The Wanderer.

The setting of The Great Unexpected is a teeny, tiny, hamlet of Blackbird Tree. Naomi and Lizzie are good friends, both are orphans. Many in the town of Blackbird face difficult lives. In fact, one new teacher...more
Abi
I spent the majority of this book simultaneously confused and delighted. I was spellbound by the rich world, the spunky orphan girl at the center of the story, her best friend, the rest of the colorful cast of characters, and the fabulously wicked and seemingly unrelated snippets of life with Pilpenny and Sybil. Slowly, as if groping in the dark and feeling the outlines of objects, the story's plot came together for me, but always with a firm sense that I was missing something. Fortunately, the...more
guiltlessreader
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Courtney
This review is from my blog, Studies in Storytelling. http://studiesinstorytelling.blogspot...

I read this book in one sitting, and it was a complete delight. I say this as a 21-year-old college senior unaccustomed to reading Middle Grade. It releases September 4, 2012.

The twelve-year-old, neurotic Naomi has a violent past and a childlike perspective, but a refreshingly sophisticated voice. Her sarcasm and levelheadedness contrast her friend Lizzie Scatterdinghead’s innocent, tactful chatterboxi...more
Alyson (Kid Lit Frenzy)
I want more books like this one. A book that is beautifully written, has quirky characters, humor, mystery/adventure, makes you care what happens, and even has sad parts. Sharon Creech has done it again. If the Newbery committee overlooks this book I might cry. Can't wait to share this book with kids this fall.

Natalie
When I was in the sixth grade my teacher recommended that I read Walk Two Moons and it changed my life. It was one of those books that tore through my soul and combusted the world into a brand new place. As a 12-year old, I think it finally helped me to start seeing "the bigger picture." I loved everything about that book and read it several more times through junior high and high school.

Naturally, I decided that I had to read everything else by Sharon Creech and I fell in love with her writing...more
Debra Mccracken
I find I agree with other readers--I wanted to like it, and I found parts of it very charming and funny. But the story did not hold together, and I had a hard time imagining how a middle-school reader could ever figure it out. The boy Finn's role was left unfinished; it was hard to figure out in what time period it was supposed to be written; and Lizzie was just a little too odd for my tastes. The concept of connectedness was a great premise, but it played out a little too amorphously.
I did like...more
Ms. Yingling
The town of Blackbird Tree has more than its fair share of orphans and old people. Naomi lives with Nula and Joe, her mother having passed away shortly after her birth, and her father dying of an infection after a dog attack that also disfigured Naomi's arm. Her friend Lizzie lives with a couple she hopes will adopt her. The two makes friends with Finn, an unusual boy who also has a mysterious past. While the children in Blackbird Tree are hanging out, helping the strange and elderly (Crazy Cora...more
Amy
Darn! Frustration! Damnation!

I really liked this book (or to put it more truthfully, I liked the IDEA of this book) and I wanted it to flow SO much better than it actually did. It is a sometimes charming and very funny tale about two young ladies who are orphans and live in what appears to be some sort of timeless village called Blackbird Tree in the U.S. An Irish boy turns up one day and starts turning their lives and thoughts around. Through an insane series of events, told in alternating chap...more
Wandering Librarians
Naomi and Lizzie, two orphan girls living in Blackbird Tree, are minding their own business when a boy falls out of a tree at their feet. Once Finn shows up, things become very strange. The mysterious Dingle Dangle man comes to town for an unknown purpose, and things begin changing, fast, and Naomi isn't sure if it's for the better. She begins to see the strange connections between people, even people far across the sea in Ireland.

I love Sharon Creech. I grew up reading Walk Two Moons and Chasin...more
Aeicha
Sharon Creech's MG book The Great Unexpected is aptly titled. When I began this book I had no expectations, having never read the author's work before, and I never expected the surprisingly touching and charming story that I got.

In Blackbird Tree two little orphan girls, Naomi and Lizzie, meet the handsome and mysterious Finn boy. These two girls are used to being around peculiar people, as their small town is full of them, but this Finn boy is a puzzle. While Naomi tries to figure Finn out, an...more
Sam
The Great Unexpected is one of those books that defies a plot summary. It's centered around two orphan girls, Naomi Deane and Lizzie Scatterding, who live in the small town of Blackbird Tree, but the story incorporates a vast number of other characters, and reaches far past the town limits. There are plots, and sub-plots, and it's the way that they intertwine that forms the heart of the book.

Indeed, it would probably be 500 pages, rather than 225, if it explained all of the details of each subpl...more
Wendy
An intriguing book--I enjoyed it very much and read it quickly. I don't think I quite grasped everything, but it seems well worth a reread. I loved the hints at adolescent angst (not written in an ANGSTY way, but a real way), and the characters, and the setting--the Irish setting was perhaps better defined than the American setting, but that might have been done purposefully. I love the way the story slips in and out of the real world.

Recommended for anyone who enjoys a little Irish folklore mix...more
Naomi
Creech gives us wonderful quirky, imaginative characters in this middle-reader fairy tale that addresses gender inequity and the reality of good fairy tales and bad ones. How shall we know the difference and attend to rectifying the wrong of the bad fairy tales? How shall we live with ordinary magic - love, acceptance, courage, wonder, and imagination - in our lives where unexpected events are to be expected? When to welcome such events and when are we to be wary of them? Creech's usual attentio...more
Kelly
I've been recommending Ruby Holler to students this past school year. Some loved it, others didn't. To those who loved it (as I did), I would recommend "The Great Unexpected. As in Ruby Holler, we meet two orphaned misfits who ultimately get the rewards they deserve. The Great Unexpected has a touch of magic and a touch of Irish folklore that brings this novel just to the edge of fantasy, but it does not take over the story. I definitely enjoyed it. However, I do agree with with SLJ that the nar...more
Vicki Sherbert
This story was filled with great, unexpected things. Friendship, family, forgiveness, and restoration all blend together throughout situations that seem impossible. As two young friends experience both hard and good times, Naomi reflects, "I realized that was one difference between me and Lizzie. I didn't want to know everything that was already known; I wanted to leave room for possibilities." What a great thought to pass along to my middle school students: Leave room for possibilities.
Madeleine
Review posted at www.topshelftext.blogspot.com

Naomi has experienced more than her fair share of tragedy. Her mother passed away from a disease and her father died as a result of a dog attack that also left Naomi's arm mangled. After the accident, Naomi was taken in by an older couple who raised her as their own, and in their care she's grown to love her surroundings, even her talkative and at times, overwhelmingly dramatic, best friend,
Lizzie. One day, Naomi and Lizzie witness a strange boy fall...more
Gina (My Precious Blog)
This was a solid MG read. The only reason I didn't give it FIVE stars was because it was quite confusing in the manor it was written. I enjoyed the messages and sweetness of the story though. Its definitely one which will warm your heart. The characters were rich and well developed. The writing style beautiful. Full Review to Come... (Closer to Review DATE)

The My Precious Blog
thecallawayfam.blogspot.com
Victoria Whipple
Creech spins a tale that that includes enough fairy magic to keep not only the characters in the story, but the reader wondering if the events are coincidence, contrived, or influenced by magic. The main characters of the story are best friends Naomi and Lizzie. Both girls are being raised by foster parents. One day the girls meet a new boy in town. His sudden and unexplained appearance is shortly followed by the Dingle Dangle man--coincidence? The girls are realistically protrayed, and Naomi's...more
Kris
I loved this book! It was both intriguing and charming. The characters have a depth and sweetness about them that made me want to keep reading. Naomi and Lizzie both tug at your heartstrings and Nula, Joe, Finn and the rest of the town folk make this story seem real. Across the ocean, Sybil and Miss Pilpenny keep things mysterious.
I feel like I need to read this again to really understand it. There are unexpected twists and turns and all kinds of things to think about. I loved the way the author...more
Heather Johnson
Everything comes together through a surreal telling of the lives within Ireland and the small town of Blackbird Tree. It's like the threads of fate that bind seemingly bizarre coincidences into what the characters know as reality.

This was a very strange read for me. The books tries to accomplish many things in so little pages. At first, I enjoyed the mysterious plot of falling Finn and the puzzle pieces scattered in the pages. The story gave teasing hints within the text, which were intriguing...more
Virginia
I didn't really like this book very much. It was confusing, and it went by really slowly. I've read a lot of Sharon Creech books, and I loved all of them, especially Chasing Redbird and Absolutely Normal Chaos. So when I got this book, I expected to like it. I was very disappointed. This book is full of all the things Sharon Creech likes to do in her books, such as having orphans, and quirky humor, and strong female protagonists, and a little bit of magic. But this one really seemed more like a...more
Alyisha
I don't feel quite as positively about "The Great Unexpected" as my 4/5 star rating suggests. If partial stars were allowed, I'd give it about 3.75/5 stars. I LOVED the book... until the last 50 pages or so. The ending was not what I was anticipating. I don't know what I WAS anticipating but I definitely feel dissatisfied. It was ambiguous but not in a good way: I still have questions but I feel like everything was also wrapped up in a nice, tidy bow. But the characters were interesting and lova...more
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11633
I was born in South Euclid, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, and grew up there with my noisy and rowdy family: my parents (Ann and Arvel), my sister (Sandy), and my three brothers (Dennis, Doug and Tom).
For a fictional view of what it was like growing up in my family, see Absolutely Normal Chaos. (In that book, the brothers even have the same names as my own brothers.) Our house was not only full of...more
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“A driver had been sent to meet us. He was gray-haired, short, and nimble and introduced himself. "I am Patrick and so is every fourth man in Ireland, and the ones in between are named Sean or Mick or Finn, and I'll be driving you.” 5 likes
“Lizzie said that if you imagined you were standing on the moon, looking down on the earth, you wouldn't be able to see the itty-bitty people racing around worrying you wouldn't see the barn falling in or the cow stuck in the pond; you wouldn't see the mean Granger kids squirting mustard on your white dress. You would see the most beautiful blue oceans and green lands, and the whole earth would look like a giant blue-and-green marble floating in the sky. Your worries would seem so small, maybe invisible.” 3 likes
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