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The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Clean Getaway, by Nic Stone (Jackpot, Dear Martin, Odd One Out) and illustrated by Dawud Anyabwilean, tells the story of 11-year-old Black boy William ("Scoob") and his elderly White grandmother ("G'ma"), who run away from home in an RV. Scoob's strict single dad, Jimmy, grounded him after Scoob was suspended from school, so he's grateful to be invited on a road trip. G'ma, for unknown reasons, has sold her home to buy the luxurious Winnebago. The pair follow the route G'ma once traveled with Scoob's grandfather, Jimmy Sr., a Black man who died in prison. As the trip progresses, G'ma's behavior becomes stranger and stranger. She calls Scoob by her deceased husband's name, ditches and dines at a restaurant, and shoplifts jewelry. Then she throws her phone away so their movements can't be traced. There are brief mentions of violence from the civil rights era: the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Medgar Evers and the murder of Emmett Till. There's one scene where an adult drinks shots of bourbon and then drives a vehicle.
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What's the story?
When CLEAN GETAWAY begins, Scoob, an 11-year-old Black boy is in an RV with his White grandmother. She's invited him on a road trip. Scoob is grounded after being suspended from school, and his dad has canceled spring break plans. Traveling with G'ma is a welcome loophole. Scoob soon learns that G'ma has sold her house to buy the fancy Winnebago. They set off through the southern United States, often consulting G'ma's store of old maps and the Green Book, a guide African Americans used during the Jim Crow era to find lodging and eating places that would serve them. Scoob learns that they are following the route of an unfinished trip G'ma took with his grandfather back in the 1960s. Scoob appreciates that G'ma shares old photos and previously secret family stories as well as some lessons about history. But something is off and his grandmother is acting strange. She drinks alcohol, which he's never known her to do. She sometimes seems lost in thought and calls him by her husband's name. She dines and dahes. He thinks, though he can't be sure, that he caught her shoplifting at a jewelry store. When she throws away her phone as they make their way to the Mexican border, he really gets worried.
Is it any good?
This multilayered page-turner is heartwarming and suspenseful. With every new development in Clean Getaway, readers learn more about the lives and emotions of Scoob and his grandmother. The tension rises steeply through one clever cliffhanger after another. A particular strength of the book is the way author Nic Stone weaves in civil rights history without ever seeming like she's lecturing or preaching: The conversations between the boy and his grandmother are realistic. She tells him anecdotes from her life, and then the two connect those stories and the sites they're seeing with his history lessons from school. Stone also does an excellent job of presenting this family as loving and supportive (and the boy as feeling loved), even as serious family problems are gradually revealed. She's previously published young adult novels, and this middle-grade debut is strong.
Cartoon-style illustrations by Dawud Anyabwile do a great job reflecting the emotional depth of the text. This book could be a good choice for a reader who's relatively new to chapter books. It can also help parents, grandparents, or even older siblings share personal stories about historical events with young readers. Readers can talk about how current events affect their personal lives.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how coping with loss is portrayed in Clean Getaway. How do each character's feelings of loss affect the actions they take?
As they travel, G'ma tells Scoob stories from a time he's only learned about in history class. How have things changed for African Americans since the civil rights movement of the 1960s?
G'ma repeatedly talks about her past mistakes and her desire to "make it right." What do you think that means? How do G'ma, Scoob, and Scoob's father, Jimmy, try to correct hurt they've caused in the past?
- Author: Nic Stone
- Illustrator: Dawud Anyabwile
- Genre: Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, History, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: January 5, 2020
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 227
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: February 26, 2020
Our editors recommend
For kids who love family stories and Black history
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