Dana Alison Levy
Available July 22, 2014
It has to be said: think Penderwicks, with four brothers instead of sisters. But these brothers have two dads, so they’re all adopted. More importantly, each brother is a distinct character, and they’re all fiercely loyal to one another when they’re not biffing each another verbally in typically playful male competition. Sam, the 12-year-old, is anxious to be a good role model even as he risks peer ridicule for participating in the school musical. Jax is the athletic 10-year-old, always competing with Sam even as he seeks his older brother’s approval. Eli is also 10, deeply studious, but worried that his insistence on attending an expensive, demanding private school may be the wrong choice after all. Frog is six, funny, and eager to keep up with all the others. The two dads are less distinguishable, but highly functional as parents, laying out and maintaining “Fletcher Family Rules” of honor, fair play, and safety. The story follows the time honored setting of a school year, and the characters are strong enough that their daily adventures and concerns fit together as tightly and unexpectedly as a Chinese puzzle, albeit one held together with mud and sweaty socks. Within all this, the fact of same sex parents and racially varied children is simply part of the fabric, as natural – and special – as waffles and strawberries for breakfast. Among the many, many middle grade books that come out each year, it’s still a thrill to find one so well done that we know at once we can recommend it wholeheartedly for at least a generation to come.