From School Library Journal
Grade 5-8–Twelve-year-old Kip is spending the summer with his grandmother and his five cousins, all of whom are full of enthusiasm, action, and talk. His mother has just remarried and he is not sure what life will be like when the newlyweds get back from Hawaii. Gran's seaside home is like nowhere else. The house has been sold and will be demolished soon so Kip and the girls are free to write on the walls, paint them, and bash them with sledgehammers if they wish, and the cousins do so with gusto. The onslaught of the girls takes a while to adjust to, but Kip has the attic bedroom as his retreat. There he finds his deceased father's adolescent journal, a notebook filled with a story of espionage, secret plots, and a boy called the Operative. Kip feels an instant connection to this story and comes to see that Tristan was the same sort of kid that he is. But this image is shattered when Kip learns that his father suffered from paranoia and delusions and that the journal was the record of life as he saw it, not a story he was writing. This is a thoughtful and often funny book of a boy on the verge of adolescence challenged to think–of his father, mother, cousins, life–in a different way. Kip must find his place in his immediate and extended family, and this summer is the first step. Give this rich novel to readers who enjoyed Hillary McKay's Casson family quartet and The Exiles
series (both S & S).–Terrie Dorio, Santa Monica Public Library, CA
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While his mother and new stepfather are on their honeymoon, 12-year-old Kip is sent to his grandmother's island home for a holiday that he will share with his five (count 'em, five
) female cousins. Although he feels at first as if he has wandered into a madhouse, he soon grows accustomed to what Gran calls "the monstrous regiment of women." But no sooner has he settled into his new surroundings than he discovers a mysterious binder in his attic bedroom and gradually begins to uncover the disturbing truth about the father he has never known. The too-large cast of characters makes for some confusion, and Ellis seems to be telling two quite different stories simultaneously. Kip, however, is an engaging protagonist, and his search for the truth is suspenseful enough to hold readers' attention. Michael CartCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved