ISBN 0140314202 - Put Betsy Byars and the Newbery Award on the cover of a book and you've already reeled me in - so to be disappointed is a bigger letdown than you'd think! Not a bad book, just not a great book.
Sara is the middle child, between mute Charlie and pretty Wanda. Their parents, one dead and one very absent, have tasked Aunt Willie with the care of the children and all seems fairly standard - a little bickering, a "you can't tell me what to do" argument, etc - until the day Sara takes Charlie to see the swans. Charlie finds the swans fascinating and soothing and doesn't want to leave, so when he looks out his window that night and sees something white moving, he is sure they have come to find him. Leaving the house in the darkness, Charlie becomes lost and Sara discovers things about herself, her brother and others in the hours after he is discovered missing.
For the first time, I find Byars' character's speech a bit off for their age. Sara's use of the word "bloomers" and the sentence "I just acted too hastily." don't seem to fit a girl in her early teens in the 1970s, although the reference to TV game shows of the time was amusing. Sara may be just "coming of age" but she ends up seeming, at times, like a much older adult - and not in the "mature for her age" sense. If you're looking to read all the Newbery winners, then you'll want to read this one. For a really good book, or even for the best Byars offers, this isn't it.
A remarkable Newberry award book written for young teens, but also a story that sticks in the mind of adults. I would recommend this book to anyone who screens books before giving them to young people.