When his grandfather’s dementia raises the specter of foster care, Arlo flees to find his only other family member in this genuine, heartening novel.
Arlo’s grandfather travels in time. Not literally — he just mixes up the past with the present. Arlo holds on as best he can, fixing himself cornflakes for dinner and paying back the owner of the corner store for the sausages Poppo eats without remembering to pay. But how long before someone finds out that Arlo is taking care of the grandfather he lives with instead of the other way around? When Poppo lands in the hospital and a social worker comes to take charge, Arlo’s fear of foster care sends him alone across three hundred miles. Armed with a name and a town, Arlo finds his only other family member — the grandmother he doesn’t remember ever meeting. But just finding her isn’t enough to make them a family. Unfailingly honest and touched with a dash of magical realism, Sarah Sullivan’s evocative debut novel delves into a family mystery and unearths universal truths about home, trust, friendship, and strength — all the things a boy needs.
It’s rare to find a quiet, reflective middle-grade novel with a boy as the main character, and rarer still to find one this satisfying. ... With touches of magical realism, and a crime caper thrown in for good measure, this gentle book explores how every family has some question nobody wants to answer.
—Cleveland Plain Dealer
Sullivan’s debut novel beautifully balances the big issues in Arlo’s life with his smaller, more immediate concerns: his dog, an adventurous friend, and the magic of a wooden eagle carved by his father. The characters’ race is often left ambiguous, allowing readers to envision for themselves. Filled with heart, this will appeal to fans of Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie or Eva Ibbotson’s One Dog and His Boy.
There’s no pretension in this simple but deep story... A playful air of mystery hangs over the second half of the novel, and there are even tinges of a good ghost story... Art history buffs will especially appreciate the fact that the final reveal involves a long-lost painting, but the carefully detailed development of a boy learning how to deal with being caught in-between will appeal to a wide range of readers.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (starred review)
Some suspense, much heartache, a few tears, and smiles all tie together nicely in the end to create an outstanding debut novel.