A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this book is the perfect summertime read. It would make a great read aloud, as families could commiserate over the bad luck that follows Ry, his grandfather, his parents, and even the family dogs, and celebrate the kindness they all find as they deal with setbacks that could discourage anyone. The story lends itself to discussions of the "what would you do if that happened to you?" variety. There's barely any mature content to speak of (no drinking, no violence, almost no swearing), but the story will resonate most with teens and up.
What's the story?
It's summertime and the living should be easy....but 15-year-old Ry finds himself stranded in Montana on his way to camp. Bad luck piles up -- his cell phone is dead, his grandfather doesn't answer the phone, his parents are sailing around the Caribbean -- and he doesn't know what to think about the eccentric good samaritan who offers to help him get home to Wisconsin. Like a more grown-up version of the classic children's book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
Is it any good?
Hard to describe, but very easy to recommend, this is a quiet thriller with no violence, no sex, and no consumerism, just lots of adventure. An improbable story of closed camps, dead cell phones, sprained ankles, wandering grandfathers, sinking sailboats, and really bad odds builds tension that almost becomes unbearable, even though we are watching a very likable teen grow up before our eyes. Ry encounters eccentric characters, things explode, boats sink, and starcrossed lovers unite, yet the real story is watching a boy grow up in the short space of a hair-raising week. Watching his confidence and maturity grow as his view of the world expands, we feel his joy when he is finally reunited with his family, and his pride when he takes responsibility and makes plans for his next summer. A tiny subplot about the dogs parallel adventure, told in Perkins' cartoon style drawings, is an extra delight.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about bad luck. Do things happen because of bad luck? Is there such a thing as karma? Do bad things happen to good people?
Ry stayed pretty calm when he saw the train leaving without him. Was there anything you think he should have done differently? What would you have done?
Despite the happy ending, some lessons could be learned from this story. For instance, Ry's parents should have been a little more careful about leaving information behind. Were there other lessons you learned?
What did you think about Del? Do you know anyone like him? Were you inspired by him, or by Ry? Who else in the story acting inspirationally?
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