Parents' Guide to


By Jan Carr, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 8+

Pitch-perfect story about boy and family facing hard times.

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What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

age 8+

Based on 11 parent reviews

age 8+

not great quality content

I was excited to show this book to my 9 year old because it had great ratings. I decided to read a little of it first and was disappointed to find that it is basically just the thought patterns of a kid, and had no edifying or helpful value. It is strictly for entertainment. Are you going to have your child read simply for entertainment? Or can they be enriched, matured, and inspired to greater qualities by what they read? Here are some excerpts to give you an idea: (talking about their middle names)"Orson and Marybelle were my dad's uncle and my mom's great-grandma. Those folks are dead, so I don't know if they're good names or not." (implying that dead people don't matter or are bad?) "I hadn't told anybody about what I'd seen at the beach. Robin would just think I was messing with her. My mom and dad would do one of two things. Either they'd freak out and worry I was going crazy. Or they'd think it was adorable that I was pretending to hang out with my old invisible friend." (so parents are stupid and can't be trusted with a kid's thoughts?) (his mom talking)"Just eat Dad's cereal, Jackson. You'll poop for a week." she answered. "Brussels-sprouts-taste-like-dirty-gym-socks..." (describing how to play a game called "cerealball" where you throw food around) "M & M's would be good too, if your mom isn't around to say no sugar." (this is to make your kid think: that's right! Mom is so annoying, and if she just wasn't around...) I have seen way too much of this garbage in books today for kids that encourages them to entertain negative, immature thoughts and influences their behavior. I have watched it happen with my own kids. Please pick something that will challenge your kid to grow, learn, and be a better, more well-rounded kid!
age 9+

A bit mellow

Would not recommend it. Too mushy. Too slow. Made me, as a mother want to fall asleep. it is a cute story, but there is NO CLIMAX, no plot no nothing. there are a lot of other stories with MUCH better storylines than this. As I said, its boring.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (11 ):
Kids say (15 ):

This moving story of a boy facing hard times is pitch-perfect, never shying away from his family's hard economic realities, and is told in a voice that rings true and is gently laced with wry humor. When Jackson describes how his family had to live out of their van for 14 weeks, the detail is vivid: They washed their clothes in rest-stop bathrooms; the family ate burned pancakes discarded by a diner. But Jackson's family is loving, if struggling, and readers will enjoy Jackson's take on the situation and get how disturbing it is for him to have to deal with a giant cat only he can see.

Author Katherine Applegate is sensitive to the family's vulnerability as they're pushed to the economic edge because of health problems and layoffs. Her finely tuned portrayal of the musician parents, apprehensive narrator, and endearingly transparent 5-year-old sister (who knocks on her brother's door, worried that her parents are going to sell her trash can), is both heartbreaking and life-affirming.

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