A sweet tale with two endearing characters. On the left is Sutton. She loves science, especially working on her mini-bot project. Sutton’s parents are divorced, and although Mom still lives in the same apartment building, her job pulls her away to study penguins in far off locales. She won’t even make it back in time for Sutton’s tenth birthday.

The boy is Luis and he likes writing fantasy stories. His dad died long ago of cancer and Luis wants to know more about him. Luis is also allergic to bees and several foods. His mom watches him closely, but he’s a regular emergency room visitor.

These two very different kids don’t go to the same school nor are they related in any way. They why are they together? The reason is something many kids will relate to in a cringe worthy fashion: Their single parents are dating each other and it appears to be getting serious (insert eye roll).

The Seattle setting blends well with the story. The kids first meet when Luis’s mom and Sutton’s dad decide they should include the kids in a few of their activities—none of which go very well. When these two not very compatible youngsters get lost on a hike they’ll have to learn about each other if they ever expect to be found.

Alternating POV’s is a perfect way to reveal the thoughts of Sutton and Luis. It’s a quiet story that would make a great read aloud along with discussion of changing family dynamics.



  1. Science gets a big flag waving support for girls. Both Sutton and her mother serve as great role models.
  2. Although this is a stand alone, the ending had me thinking what comes next for Luis and Sutton? The mark of a well paced story that pulls you in to a satisfying conclusion.
  3. The compass provides a nice connection and reveals much about each of the characters.
  4. Luis was my favorite character at first, but the character arc for Sutton brought them both to a photo finish.
  5. The parents and supporting cast supply much needed support for the kids they love. I also need to learn how to make Mrs. Banerjee’s special golden milk drink.


Joy McCullough’s debut young adult novel Blood Water Paint(Penguin) won the Washington State and Pacific Northwest books awards, as well as honors such as the National Book Award longlist, finalist for the ALA Morris Award, a Publishers Weekly Flying Start and four starred reviews. Her debut middle grade novel, A Field Guide to Getting Lost (Simon & Schuster) is a Junior Library Guild Selection. She writes books and plays from her home in the Seattle area, where she lives with her husband and two children. She studied theater at Northwestern University, fell in love with her husband atop a Guatemalan volcano, and now spends her days surrounded by books and kids and chocolate.


I’ll continue this theme of single parent dating when I review SECOND DAD SUMMER this Friday.

Comments are always welcome below.

About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
This entry was posted in Middle Grade Book Reviews and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Natalie Aguirre says:

    This sounds like a great story. I like how the author chose the girl as the scientist and the boy as the writer. Sounds like you’re on a roll on single parent dating.

  2. This one looks good. I like the idea of the compass connection. There’s just something about compasses that are irresistible!

  3. Completely Full Bookshelf says:

    This sounds like a great story! I can imagine that a lot of kids can relate to meeting potential stepsiblings as their parents get to know each other. Thanks for the great review!

  4. Danielle Hammelef says:

    I can highly recommend this fun novel. I enjoyed every minute of it and the friendship and supportive parents are heartwarming.

  5. There are sure to be kids who will identify with this book. Love that Sutton loves science and Louis loves writing. Sounds like a great friendship and really fun summer read!

  6. I really like this book as well for all the reasons you mention. Thanks for the reminder!

  7. This sounds like a unique and fun book for middle-graders and kids at heart alike. Besides, you had me at ‘two endearing characters’. I enjoy books where I like and admire the characters. Thanks for sharing this one for MMGM, Greg. :0}

  8. Jenni says:

    I like the whole idea of two characters who don’t like each other getting lost in the woods. It’s sort of got a Hansel and Gretel feel to it, though perhaps not so dark. It sounds like it has some well-rounded characters. And as a former Washingtonian, I love that it’s set in Seattle!

  9. Pingback: SECOND DAD SUMMER | Always in the Middle…

  10. I loved the author’s YA book. This sounds good, too.

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