What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that there is little to be concerned about here.
What's the story?
Sam, who can barely read, lives with his grandfather and an unusual extended family. As he approaches his 11th birthday, he is haunted by fear of that number, and strange dreams in which it's prominently featured. When he discovers an old newspaper article with his picture and the word \"missing,\" he is worried that his life is not what he thought it was. So he enlists the help of new classmate Caroline to read the article, track down the clues, and find out who he really is.
Is it any good?
This lovely, poignant mystery will not be to every kid's taste -- there's no action and no villains. But veteran author Giff doesn't need them to craft an utterly engrossing, deeply moving page-turner. There are many pleasures here, from Sam's touching friendship with Caroline to his delightful alternative family -- with his parents dead, he lives with his grandfather over their woodworking shop, next to a deli and a restaurant, whose owners live over them as well. Together the boy and three single adults form an unusual but very workable family, taking care of one another and parenting Sam.
Sam's reading difficulties are also beautifully described, as is the reaction of those in his life. He doesn't live in fear of others finding out -- pretty much everyone knows. Instead he has given up on it ever getting better, and has learned to make the most of his other talents. But his extended family, friends, and teachers have not given up on him and, while supporting his talents, they make sure he doesn't close the door on reading.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about Sam and Caroline's friendship. Why is it hard for boys and girls to be friends at that age? Why do Sam and Caroline try to hide their friendship from Sam's other friends? Why does Sam initially reach out to Caroline instead of one of his other friends? Also, why can't Sam read? Why has he given up?