Middle grade books these days aren’t lacking for page counts. According to Amazon, many of the tops titles from 2013 far exceeded the normal number of pages expected from this genre. ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO’S LIBRARY (304 pages), NAVIGATING EARLY (320 pages), and HOUSE OF HADES (608 pages) to name a few. I love a nice long story that will keep me entertained for weeks depending on the amount of time I have for reading, but…
Before a recent two-hour plane trip, I searched for a title that could be read from beginning to end during the flight. No standing in the aisle waiting to deplane and wondering what happens next. Not a picture book, but a nice story that could hold my interest. ROAD TRIP, by Gary and Jim Paulsen, fit the requirement, coming in at 114 pages.
PUBLICATION DATE:2013 LEVEL: 4.3 WORD COUNT: 22,670
FULL PLOT (From Amazon): Dad and Ben haven’t been getting along recently and Dad hopes a road trip to rescue a border collie will help them reconnect. But Ben is on to Dad’s plan and invites Ben’s thuggish buddy, Theo. The family dog, Atticus, comes along too and the story is told by Ben and Atticus. When their truck breaks down, they commandeer an old school bus, along with its mechanic, Gus. Next, they pick up Mia, a waitress escaping a tense situation. Only sharp-eyed Atticus realizes that Theo is on the run—and someone is following them.
FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT ROAD TRIP
- Atticus the dog who gives pearls of wisdom that could only come from an aging border collie. He gets to speak at the end of each chapter (except the last), and his half page to a page of thoughts are entertaining and keep the plot moving forward.
- It’s a dog story and no one dies.
- Gary Paulsen wrote this with his son, who up until this title was not an author. Their collaboration is unique and a hard one to pull off.
- Quite a cast of characters with their own unique personalities packed into the pages. There’s Ben, the teen narrator, his older friend, Theo, Gus the mechanic, Mia the girl searching for a life, and Ben’s parents.
- Fast paced and full of action.
ROAD TRIP is the perfect story to kill a few hours. Just a few negatives: The cover is misleading and would seem to call for kids of all ages. Don’t fall for this obvious marketing ploy – ROAD TRIP has some serious themes that would be best left for sixth grade and up. The protagonist is 14 and his friend 18, which is a bit on the high end of the ages expected for Middle Grade. Finally, things are wrapped up rather quickly at the end with a lot of “telling” about how things turn out … then again, without that you’d be right back reading a novel three times this size.
Everyone always feels better when there is a plan (Atticus, the dog).
Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.