From School Library Journal
Grade 2–5—This deceptively simple, thoroughly engaging story is a child's account of her family's cross-country road trip (complete with hand-drawn maps) to visit the old homestead. Before they embark, Mom gives her two children instant cameras and notebooks to document their travels. But the kids quickly discover that what they record on film has little in common with what they actually experience. The snapshot of the back of Dad's head as he drives, for instance, fails in every way to capture the way it felt to be in the car with him at that moment. Photos of grass, a mountain, the sky, or cropped feet in no way reflect the endless days of rain, the secret swimming spot, or activities in the lake. The youngsters also find that on the very best days—when the large extended family gathers at the farm—they are just too busy to take any pictures. Perkins's colorful, line-intensive illustrations incorporate a lot of detailed thought bubbles and plenty of peeks inside the narrator's notebook. Vibrant watercolor renderings include the lush scenery from a variety of perspectives, the characters and their activities, their vivid imaginings, and the kids' captioned "photos." The whole is infused with wonderfully understated accidental, but child-centered humor. A journey into family dynamics, shared experience, and memory that is well worth the trip.—Catherine Threadgill, Charleston County Public Library, SC
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*Starred Review* Many books idealize the joys of family vacations. Here's a more honest look at the way those trips make memories. Mom, Dad, son, and daughter, who narrates, have high hopes about a trip to the old family farm. But the drive is long and boring, and when they arrive, Dad sees happy memories, while everyone else sees old furniture and dust. It's downhill from there. Rain falls and falls some more. The local lake is hard to find, and rain ruins that outing, too. A memorial service for their dad's recently deceased great-aunt seems as though it will be the worst part of the trip, but a funny thing happens. Family appears; stories are swapped; bonds are forged. In the beginning, the narrator's poorly shot photographs, always of meaningless things, provide a kind of visual hook. After the extended family arrives, the girl doesn't take pictures. She's too busy making memories, "the kind I can keep in my mind." Perkins, who won the Newbery Medal for Criss-Cross
(2005), shows she is equally adept at illustration. Using many overhead perspectives and with an eye for small details, she offers watercolors that beautifully capture all that is real about family vacations: boredom, disappointment, fun, and love. Ilene CooperCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved