From School Library Journal
Grade 5-8–As this coming-of-age novel set in 1960s California opens, 11-year-old Mitch is gearing up for a summer of monster movies and sleepovers with his best friend. He is dismayed to learn that his family will be spending two months in rural Louisiana instead. Upon arrival, he is unimpressed with the small town and his overall-clad relatives. Over the next two months, he deals with a first crush, a raging bull, a charismatic troublemaker, and third-degree burns. By his 12th birthday, Mitch has learned to respect his country cousins and himself, and has made a successful transition to adolescence. For the first two thirds of this novel, the narrator's voice is inconsistent and stilted, and the plot meanders down several paths before settling on a main road. The author tries to weave in as many period pop-culture references as possible, and many of these details seem distracting and out of place. In the last six chapters, as the pace picks up and the characters begin to come to life, the book really redeems itself. Unfortunately, the target audience will probably have given up long before then.–Rachael Vilmar, Atlanta Fulton Public Library, GA
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Gr. 5-7. Eleven-year-old Mitch Valentine and his best friend are looking forward to the perfect summer (it is 1962) when his parents announce that he and his family will be spending it in rural Louisiana with his mother's relatives. His immediate despair slowly fades as he comes to appreciate Southern cooking, family stories, adventures with his five boy cousins, and a girl named Skeeter. The experiences are a much-needed counterweight to the heat, the bugs, and the ever-present threat of snakes. First-time novelist Marcum has crafted a completely believable, mostly likeable narrator in Mitch. Joking at every turn (with flatulence one of the favored topics) and observant almost to a fault, Mitch seems to relay his every action and thought, which may prove more than necessary for some readers. The story has its slow patches, but Marcum's accounts of Mitch's risk taking (running from a bull, climbing up a water tower) are vivid and memorable, and the lesson learned (steer clear of foolish dares from guys with mean streaks) is delivered without heavy-handedness. Abby NolanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved