HOW TO AVOID EXTINCTION for Marvelous Middle Grade EXTRA

I’m reading as many of the 108 CYBILS Middle Grade Fiction Nominees before my role as a second round judge kicks in next month. Some very hardy round one judges are currently reading every book and will hand the second round judges a half dozen or so titles so we can make a final decision by Valentine’s Day.

Today is a title with a great cover and an intriguing cast of characters.28697361

Narrated by Leo, our young protagonist misses his grandfather (Pop), his best buddy when he was alive. His mom is somewhat bossy and Leo’s main task is tracking down his grandmother who keeps wandering off. One day Grandma really wanders off taking Leo, his older cousin Abbey, and her old lovable dog for a cross country adventure from Pennsylvania to Utah.

The trip becomes a journey of discovery about family, life, and this beautiful country. It’s a fast, easy to read story with some very amusing chapter headings like How to Strip the Flesh off Squirrel Nutkin or A Tragedy with Knock-Knock Jokes. I could have done without the extra death along the way, but the rest of the tale will have you wanting to get in your own car to see America and also maybe hug your family a little tighter.


FULL PLOT (From AMAZON) Since the death of his grandfather, Leo’s number one chore has been to chase after his grandmother who seems to wander away from home every few days. Now, Gram’s decided to roam farther than ever. And despite his misgivings, Leo’s going along for the ride. With his seventeen-year-old cousin, Abbey, and an old, gassy dog named Kermit, Leo joins Gram in a big, old Buick to leave their Pennsylvania home for a cross-country road trip filled with fold-out maps, family secrets, new friends, and dinosaur bones.

How to Avoid Extinction is a middle grade comedy about death and food and family and fossils. It’s about running away from home and coming back again. For Leo, it’s about asking hard questions and hopefully finding some sensible answers. As if good sense has anything to do with it. Against a backdrop of America’s stunning size and beauty, it’s also about growing up, getting old, dreaming about immortality, and figuring out all the things we can — and can’t — leave behind.


  1. Kids who loved dinosaurs in their early years will be thrilled by the inclusion of them here. It’s a hands-on, real life look.
  2. I hope all people in Nebraska are like the family they meet. Caring and helpful and willing to lend a hand to another family.
  3. The humor is not of the laugh out loud belly laugh kind, but more about the smiles it puts on your face while reading.
  4. The dialog exchanges were my favorite part of the book. Tense at times, but always amusing and thought provoking.
  5. A good read-aloud and a perfect story for those in a similar grieving situation.


Mom takes a deep breath. “My father died a year ago. My mother ran away from home. My son’s been wandering around under a black cloud for months.” She leans forward and smacks Abbey in the back of the head.

“Hey!” Abbey protests.

“And I love this one like a daughter, which means I worry about her all the time.”

ABOUT Paul Acampora (from Scholastic)

Paul Acampora is the author of Defining Dulcie and Rachel Spinelli Punched Me in the Face, among other titles. Paul is a former kindergarten teacher and now leads writing workshops for many grades. Paul and his family live in Allentown, Pennsylvania.


Make a comment if you have time. I enjoy reading all of them. Click on the comments link below.

Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.


About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
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5 Responses to HOW TO AVOID EXTINCTION for Marvelous Middle Grade EXTRA

  1. My kind of story! I love the cast of characters! Will be interested if you share any of your thoughts about the books you enjoyed on the Cybils MG section. Don’t know how you found the time. Are you assigned certain books? There are so many really good nominations! There are two on the list I’m reading right now!

    • Luckily I’m not a round one judge or I’d be trying to read all 108 books. Since October I’ve read about 20 of the books. I chose the ones I thought were the best (like todays) and next week I’ll get the list of 5-7 titles chosen as finalists. I’ll have January to go through them all and hopefully they’ll be ones I read already.

  2. This one sounds really good. I love road trip stories, and I love good dialogue. I will be checking this one out. Thanks.

  3. I love road trips and road trip books. We had an aunt in Farmington, NM and used to drive from Tennessee to New Mexico every other year.

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