Tobin McCauley opens his story by telling about the day his grandmother got arrested driving him to school on the first day of seventh grade. His family is somewhat dysfunctional, you could say. His dad is always at work or off with his brother. Saturday morning, the time when he is at home, his is parked in front of the TV. There is rarely food in the house and Tobin’s older brothers and sisters manage to get by on their own wits. No one has much time or interest in him, except for his grandmother. His mother died of cancer five years ago. I keep picking up these motherless child books, without consciously planning it. It is interesting to me as well that this is the second book in a row that goes into the joys and rewards of raising chickens and eating organic, free range eggs. In Project Mulberry the club leader runs an organic farm and the kids’ families buy eggs from him. In this story the kids are raising the chickens and selling them to family and friends.
Tobin manages to make one friend at school, an amusing fellow who’s passion is raising chickens. He and his little brother talk Tobin into going into business with them, and life starts to get more interesting and manageable for Tobin. At least until he gets it into his grandmother’s head that he should be living with her, and she calls in a report to Social Services on his dad. This gets dad fired up trying to pull the family together, and although it feels like the end of the world for Tobin, getting caught up in the firestorm of family pain, in the end it is what brings the family to start a healing journey. The father in this book reminds me of the father in The Young Man and The Sea. Both are lost in mourning for their dead wife and neglecting their living sons, until the strength of desperation and determination in the sons calls them to wake up and begin living again.
Tobin is a strong character with a clear voice. He reminds me of some of the boys with whom I attended seventh grade. Reading his story gives me a new understanding of the depth beneath their apparent disinterested foolishness. I also enjoyed Dovey Coe and Where I’d Like to Be by the same author, which I read last year. Highly recommended.
In other news: You may have noticed I have been updating my blogroll. I have it reorganized so that those that have updated in the last 24 hours move to the top. I like that I can check the new posts every day without wondering where to start. I have also added a lot of book-related sites, as I find more librarians and kidlit enthusiasts. I hope you are enjoying reading all their reviews as much as I am! Take a look over at Semicolon to see a list of links of some favorite book reviews this week. I put one of mine there to share and I found some new blogs to read by checking everyone else’s contribution.
I also gave Overwhelmed with Joy! a link to my 100th post. She is gathering a collection of them and it is fascinating to browse the list and see what everyone was posting about when they got to that mile-marker. I found some new-to-me blogs there that I want to keep up with reading. When I went back through my archives to identify mine I was hoping I would discover that my 100th was a really good book review, since I intended this blog to be about books when I started. It turns out is was a garden post. It’s one I like though, because I am looking forward to reviewing those flower pictures when it is the depth of winter and I am longing for some breath of summer sweetness. As this blog evolves I am finding it is not so important to me to follow my original rule that it be just about what I am reading. Now it’s about everything I don’t want to forget, and a place to stretch my writing through practice. That I am making new friends and learning from all of you is one of the delightful results!