This Upper MG book is by Lisa Bullard, new to the MG world, but hardly new to being an author. She has a long list of successful picture books and non-fiction books for the K-4 audience. She also has a few writing titles out for adults.
First off – TURN LEFT AT THE COW – How can you not love the title? Written from 13-year-old Trav’s perspective, his opinion and views of the world would hit home with a 5-8th grade audience. This is a mystery at heart and a great one at that. I figured out the bad guy fairly early, but still the tension built throughout made this story soar.
PUBLICATION DATE:2013 LEVEL: 5.6 WORD COUNT: 59,336
FULL PLOT (From Amazon): Thirteen-year-old Trav has always wondered about his dead-before-he-was-born dad. But when he heads from California to his grandmother’s house in rural Minnesota, hoping to learn about his past, he gets more than he bargained for.
It turns out his dad was involved in a bank robbery right before he mysteriously disappeared, and the loot from the take is still missing. Along with Kenny and Iz, the kids next door, Trav embarks on a search for the cash. But the trio’s adventure quickly turns dangerous when it becomes clear that someone else is looking for the money—someone who won’t give up without a fight!
FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT TURN LEFT AT THE COW
- The author’s words as she weaved in details of the Minnesota setting had me wanting to visit. Church basement gatherings, lakes galore, patriotic parades, and yes., live-bait vending machines makes the reader feel like they are there.
- Trav’s inner dialog is superb and you feel like you really know this kid. His sometimes mis-wired views are natural for an early teen. Just an all out great voice to spend time with.
- Any book that features several pages on chicken-poop-bingo is going to have many laughs popping up inside the mystery. The humor was never forced and always a surprise.
- The relationship with Trav and his grandmother was real – heartbreaking one moment and heartwarming the next.
- The tenderness of Trav’s understanding of his first romance, family dynamics, and forgiveness. All the plot lines were neatly sewn up and the ending was satisfying.
There were so many dead bodies stuffed into Gram’s freezer chest that it was kind of like wandering through a cryonics lab.
Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.