From School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-Jack desperately wants to break some sort of world record because he believes that by doing so he can restore his family to what it was before his sister died of SIDS. Stevenson vividly portrays how Annie's death affects the whole family. Jack's mom suffers from depression, barely getting out of bed each day. Jack and his father neglect all but the basic necessities, including the fallout shelter Jack's dad began before Annie died. It is when the 12-year-old finds Kate, a girl whose family has relocated from the United States to Canada, that he begins the healing process. Kate and her mother are like a balm to Jack and his mother, and the catalysts behind a positive turning point for the family. The author injects much-needed humor into the story through Jack's failed record-breaking attempts and Kate's inability to play the recorder or cook. Historical references, like the JFK assassination and the specter of the Cold War, ground the novel in the early 1960s. Jack's emotions, particularly the fear and guilt he feels, and his preoccupation with the family's situation, are realistic. This is a compelling novel, even with the weighty subject, and many of the characters are well rounded and believable. The author also brings hope to Jack's family and readers without giving the story a pat ending. A solid offering.-Hilary Writt, Sullivan University, Lexington, KYα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
A quiet novel that delves into difficult subjects, Stevenson’s latest shines a warm light on both grief and friendship. Set in small-town Ontario in 1963, the book follows 12-year-old Jack as he copes with his mother’s debilitating depression, his father’s emotional distance, and his own sadness over the crib death of his baby sister a year earlier. One of Jack’s ideas to lighten the mood is to break a Guinness World Record, but his attempts only get him into trouble. Stevenson skillfully shows how Jack compares his life before Annie’s death to his bleak present: his best friend has moved away and his other friend, he realizes, “can’t help” being a jerk. Kennedy’s assassination and cold war fears only add to Jack’s general distress. The book’s main plot contrivance is a 12-year-old girl who befriends Jack and whose mother helps Jack’s mother get off the numbing medications her doctor has prescribed. All in all, a thoughtful evocation of an uneasy time on both a personal and global level. Grades 4-6. --Abby Nolan