The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy
The four Fletcher boys could not be more different from one another. There is the serious ten-year-old Eli who is starting a private school separate from his brothers for the first time and who just may have made a horrible decision changing schools. There is Sam, aged twelve, who loves sports and is popular at school but who will find himself stretching into new interests this year. There is Jax, also aged ten, who has a huge homework assignment that will have him talking to their new grumpy neighbor for help but only after he calms down from a number of things. Finally, there is Frog who is just starting kindergarten along with his imaginary friend and who may have a new imaginary friend named Ladybug. It all adds up to a wonderful read with lots of humor and one amazing family.
Filled with laughter, an angry neighbor, elaborate Halloween parties, soccer, hockey and plenty of pets, this book is sure to please middle grade readers. Add in the diverse backgrounds of the four boys in the family and their two dads and you have a book that celebrates diversity without taking itself too seriously. It’s the ideal mix of completely readable book with its diversity simply part of the story not the main point.
All of the boys as well as the two fathers are unique individuals with their own personal responses to crises and situations. Each chapter begins with a note from one character to another, usually funny and always showing their personality. Perhaps the best part of the book is that this family dynamic is clearly one of love but also filled with normal chaos and the daily strain of work, school, neighbors and friends. It reads like a modern classic.
I hope we get to read more of their misadventures in future books, because this is one family that I want to see much more of! Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy received from Delacorte Books for Young Readers.
Ask the Passengers by A. S. King
Astrid wishes there was someone who could just listen to her without pressuring her. Her mother is too pushy and driven to confide in, her father too withdrawn and high. Her younger sister makes jokes that would make it impossible for Astrid to tell her the truth. The truth is that Astrid has been kissing a girl and may just be in love with her. But Astrid isn’t sure that she is really gay. It may be that she just loves Dee for being Dee and not because they are both gay. To make matters worse, Astrid’s best friends are in a fake relationship to keep their own secrets. Astrid spends a lot of time on the picnic table in her backyard watching the planes fly overhead. She beams them her love, tells them her secrets, and asks them for advice. When the gay club that she and her friends frequent gets raided, Astrid is forced to start to confront the truth about herself, her family, and her friends.
King has captured the story of a girl questioning her sexuality here, but the story also transcends that and will reach teens who are questioning other aspects of themselves too. It is a story that encapsulates that particular blend of wonder and fear that comes as a teen who is learning about themselves in such a private way that the rest of the world doesn’t change along with them. Beautifully written, this is a book that speaks to the fragility and yet strength of that time.
In addition, King has created such a strong character voice here. It rings with truth, never becoming snarky but really capturing a teen aspect. Astrid’s messages to the plane passengers add an additional sense of magic and wonder to the story. As she beams her love up, passengers receive it, make decisions based it, question their own lives, and react. It adds an important dimension to the book, showing that throughout our lives people are still questioning.
This is a striking read with a vibrant heroine and a radiant point of view that itself beams with love and acceptance. Appropriate for ages 16-18.
Reviewed from library copy.