From School Library Journal
Gr 4-7–Twelve-year-old Derek has been identified as a reluctant reader. He likes to read, but doesn't enjoy required materials. He says he prefers having his own adventures (tossing as hand grenades the avocados his mother is saving for dinner, climbing onto the roof with a croquet set to hit wooden balls into the satellite dish) to learning about someone else's life. When his teacher gives the class summer reading and writing assignments, Derek finds a way to distract himself from the task. He discovers an old newspaper clipping about a 17-year-old who drowned, and his mother explains that the teen was babysitting him at the time and died saving him. Derek is determined to learn more about her death and his involvement in it. The margins of this book feature vocabulary words illustrated with cartoons. The protagonist is by turns likable and irritating, but always interesting. He is sure to engage fans of Jeff Kinney's “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” books (Abrams) as well as those looking for a spunky, contemporary boy with a mystery to solve. Reluctant readers will appreciate the book's large print and quick-paced story.Helen Foster James, University of California at San Diego
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*Starred Review* Twelve-year-old Derek is not a reader. His assignment to read three books over the summer stinks. But then something that he wants to read catches Derek’s eye. In the attic, he finds a 10-year-old article about a teenage girl who drowned on a Martha’s Vineyard beach. When he questions his mother about the article, her nervousness tells him something’s up, so he takes on the assignment of discovering what happened on the beach that day and why it’s important. Janet Tashjian, known for her young adult books, offers a novel that’s part Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2007),part intriguing mystery; yet the best element here is really the first-person voice, which captures so completely the pushes and pulls in the life of someone with learning disabilities. Derek is brash, careless, and usually willing to do something stupid. He is also bright, a talented artist, and smart enough to know when he has gone too far. Adding to the book’s effectiveness is a generous typeface that looks like printing and artwork by the author’s 14-year-old son, Jake. Like the story’s narrator, he uses stick figures to illustrate vocabulary words, and here they march down the margins. Some are simple depictions, like a handful of flowers for the word bouquet. Some take more thought: a sad face moving to a happier one for adapt. Give this to kids who think they don’t like reading. It might change their minds. Grades 4-7. --Ilene Cooper