Cover image for Signs and wonders
Signs and wonders
Collins, Pat Lowery.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1999.
Physical Description:
176 pages ; 22 cm
In a series of letters, a fourteen-year-old convent school student who never knew her mother and resents her father, grapples with her belief that God has chosen her to give birth to a prophet.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.5 5.0 41561.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Young Adult Fiction Young Adult

On Order



Tucked away at boarding school, fourteen-year-old Taswell is undergoing an extraordinary transformation. She knows it's important, but she's not sure how to deal with it and who she should tell . . . certainly not her distant grandmother, who's busy with work, or her father, who has a new and pregnant wife. Isolated from friends and family, she looks for help and advice in surprising places. As Taswell discovers more about herself and the people around her, she ultimately finds salvation where she least expects it. Told entirely in letters, this startlingly original novel about a search for love and family is both heartbreaking and hilarious.

Author Notes

Pat Lowery Collins lives in Gloucester, Massachusetts, where she writes, paints and illustrates full-time. She was born and raised in Hollywood and received her B.A. in English from the University of Southern California. She is an award winning poet and author, having written a number of young adult novels including The Fattening Hut (Houghton, 2003), Just Imagine (Houghton, 2001), and Signs and Wonders (Houghton, 1999), as well as the picture book Tomorrow, Up and Away (Houghton, 1990). To learn more about Pat Lowery Collins, visit her website at

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 6^-8. Taswell has been singled out for a miracle. She is pregnant--a virgin birth--with the prophet for a new millennium. Living in a convent-run school allows her seclusion and enables her to focus her mind on both her secret and things holy. The book's format is a series of letters between Taswell and those who will help or hinder her mission: the grandmother who raised her after Taswell was abandoned by her mother; her distant father and his pregnant young wife; a classmate who comes to believe in Taswell's calling; and Taswell's angel, from whom she seeks signs and wonders. Collins effectively allows readers a glimpse into Taswell's mind as the girl physically and emotionally exhibits signs of pregnancy. Taswell's correspondents are equally well defined, though her grandmother is a career woman stereotypical to the point of incredulity. The eventual disclosure of Taswell's secret, and the inevitable discovery that hers is a hysterical pregnancy, is well played. Less effective is the aftermath, in which Taswell and her new stepmother bond, and for all intents and purposes erase the last nine months. Still, strong voices and an intriguing premise allow readers to contemplate both the mundane and the miraculous. --Ilene Cooper

Publisher's Weekly Review

Picture book author Collins's first novel takes a startlingly provocative premise and clothes it in the familiar tropes of the YA novel. On the eve of the new millennium, 14-year-old Taswell believes that God has chosen her to give birth to a prophet. As the novel opens, Taswell is writing letters from a convent school where she's been sent because her guardian grandmother, Mavis, is busy traveling. Taswell's mother disappeared soon after her birth and her recently remarried father is a loving but distant presence. In her loneliness, Taswell turns to Pim, a guardian angel with a "misty green suit" and "glassy skin" whom she remembers from her early childhood. Taswell writes him letters that reveal both her alienation and her miraculous transformation (invoking other pivotal events that have happened to young people: "Think of Joan of Arc. Think of the Virgin Mary"). The resolution of this original plot is both surprising (neither consensual nor abusive sex is the cause of Taswell's condition) and at the same time disappointingly predictable (Taswell begins to heal only when an adult shows that she truly understands and cares). The epistolary form allows easy access to the protagonist's thoughts but not necessarily an easy identification with her. Taswell's sense of greatness (due to her special role), which separates her from her peers, may be off-putting to readers as well; yet they'll likely keep turning the pages to learn the outcome of the protagonist's unusual predicament. Ages 10-14. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7-9-Taswell, 14, has been sent to a remote, mountaintop Catholic girls' school by her grandmother. Her story is plausibly told through letters to and from her family, and to Pim, whom the teen believes is a cherubim who will intercede on her behalf only if she is worthy. She also believes that, like the Virgin Mary, she has been chosen to bear a prophet for the new millennium. Gaining weight and guarding her secret for months, Taswell gradually detaches from everyone, enthralled by ritual and religious fervor. Only Grace, a novitiate, and Madeline, a fellow student whom Taswell is convinced has been called to assist her, make any contact. Interventions by the school staff, including a therapist, are ineffective. When a doctor's examination finally determines that Taswell is not pregnant, but delusional, her family is summoned to deal with her. Ah, the family: her high-powered New York editor/grandmother who raised Taswell but has invested neither time nor emotion in the process; her wealthy but distant father, who, motivated by his new wife, seeks to establish closer contact; and her pregnant, kind and understanding stepmother, the only character who offers the young woman the unconditional love she craves. Serious and disturbing, Taswell's narrative is initially attention grabbing, but drags during the second trimester as the plot labors to conform to the nine-month school year/pregnancy time frame. Taswell and her dysfunctional family are convincingly frustrating and psychologically rich characters. Together with the plot, this limits the readership to serious, capable readers.-Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Jr. High School, Iowa City, IA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.