Longing for Normal by Darcy PattisonLonging for Normal by Darcy Pattison

Longing for Normal

byDarcy Pattison

Paperback | January 8, 2015

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A boy unites an immigrant community and rebuilds his family–using a simple sourdough bread recipe.

Eliot Winston, a grieving son, must convince his new step-mother – now Griff Winston’s widow – to adopt him. But when she married Griff Winston, Marj hadn’t bargained on being the single mother of a twelve-year-old boy. Alli Flynn, a foster child new to the school, convinces Eliot that he must fight to keep his family intact and the best way to do that is to help Mrs. Winston with the Bread Project, a fund raising project for the school. With his whole future at stake, Eliot tries hard to please Marj; but as the deadlines near for the Bread Project and for Marj to sign his adoption papers, Eliot finds it harder and harder to hang on to hope.

In the tradition of Dicey’s Song by Cynthia Voigt, this story follows two kids who search for a family and a home. This middle grade novel tugs at the heart strings. Pattison captures Eliot's poignant longing for a home, and combines it with a quirky project about bread.Come and cheer for Eliot and Alli as they fight for a community, a family, a home.



Stories start in many places. This one started because I was always the bread-baker for family gatherings. For a while, I kept a sourdough starter and made sourdough English muffins, loaves and much more. I was amazed to read that some starters were over 100 years old and in continuous use. It was an amazing connection to other cultures, too, where different strains of sourdough organisms created distinctive tastes.

And then, a health issue forced me to adopt a gluten-free diet.

I knew I wanted to write something with bread as a major plot point, and the story of Eliot and Alli grew around that. Bread is a malleable metaphor so it seemed appropriate to use it as the means of building a unique community.

Eliot’s panic attacks and Alli’s foster parent problems came as the story progressed. Like a loaf of bread rising, you never quite know where a starter idea will take you!


Eliot's Dad was an expert sourdough baker, and used a starter that had been in the family for decades. Sourdough starter has wild yeast and bacteria that leaves an acid gives off an acid that creates the sour taste. Griff Winston, the school nurse, was one of the most love people in the community. His sourdough bread loaves were legendary, and everyone supported his Bread Project as a fund-raiser. One student will get a container of sourdough, which they will feed with flour and water. The next week, the first student splits the dough and gives one cup of starter to the next student. The next week, two students give away starter--while still feeding their own, so there are four students with sourdough starter. Each week, the number of students with starter doubles: 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512. In ten short weeks, the whole student body will have sour dough starter, just in time for Thanksgiving.

Families are asked to bake something with the sourdough, and bring it to a silent auction. With a strong immigrant population, there will be sourdough pita, English muffins, pancakes, challah, French bread, cinnamon rolls, pretzels, Brioche, bagels, Bruschetta al pomodore, raisin bread, cinnamon rolls, Kaiser rolls, potato rolls. Loaves of rye breads, whole wheat breads, just plain white loaves. Focaccia. Dutch Crunch. Everything from A to Z: Anadama to Zucchini-Carob Bread.

To convince his step-mother to adopt him, Eliot only has a container of sourdough, a complicated Bread project, and hope. Will it be enough?

At family gatherings, Darcy Pattison was known for baking great breads until she discovered she needed a gluten-free diet. Now she only bakes bread in her stories instead. Published in nine languages, her middle grade novels include: Saucy and Bubba; The Girl, the Gypsy and the Gargoyle; Vagabond; The Wayfinder. Coming in Fall, 2016 is...
Title:Longing for NormalFormat:PaperbackDimensions:220 pages, 8.5 × 5.5 × 0.46 inPublished:January 8, 2015Publisher:Mims House LLCLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1629440426

ISBN - 13:9781629440422


Editorial Reviews

Two foster kids join forces to try and secure their forever families while keeping hope alive in the form of a sourdough bread starter. Eliot had three days of happiness before his adoptive father suddenly died, leaving behind a newlywed widow who isn't sure she is ready to be a mom. Alli is bounced back into the system after an accident nearly causes her long-term foster mom to lose her unborn child. The unlikely friends bond over Eliot's deceased dad's idea to raise money for the school, using a pyramid scheme to pass along sourdough bread starter that students' families will use to bake and sell bread to fund a new playground. While parts of the plot are merely sketched-the school doesn't seem desperate for a new playground, for instance-Pattison's characters provide a reason to keep reading. In voices old before their time, due to years in the system, they describe their desperate attempts to stay relevant to the adults in their lives. A rare book featuring foster kids in realistic scenarios. Booklist March 2015