What It Is About: Charlie likes to have things in order. This becomes more and more difficult as his family's life begins to unravel. His father has returned from reporting in Afghanistan with some major injuries. This has left Charlie, his two younger twin brothers, and his older sister living with their grandmother. They visit their father daily at the hospital, but don't get much in return as he is unable to speak and/or communicate. During their visits, the family members notice that a "foreign" female is sneaking and hanging around the hospital and their father's room. When Charlie's dad takes a turn for the worse, he must be moved from the California hospital to a special Virginia facility to be under the care of a specialist. The kids' grandmother accompanies him to the East Coast leaving them with a temporary caregiver. When she doesn't show up, the children are surprised to learn that the mystery lady from the hospital has arrived on their doorstep and is taking control of a family in need. She takes them on a cross-country journey to visit their father so they can see for themselves that he is indeed making improvements. Charlie and his siblings learn about themselves, their father, and the "mysterious tour guide" while they make their way from the west to east coast.
What I Thought Of It: What a complete joy this story was. I enjoyed everything about the story. The main character of Charlie was well written, well developed, and worked his way into my "reading heart". There were so many levels to this plot. You had Charlie's story, the father's story, the "mystery" lady and her son. All of these stories were tied together and came together in a most beautiful way. The voyage that the family took across the country had several funny moments. silly moments, heart-warming moments, and above all brought the family closer together than ever. As a reader I always appreciate a surprise, twist, or turn in a story and this one delivered on that with top-notch satisfaction.
Who Should Read It: As I read the novel, I kept thinking to myself that I wanted to share this wonderful story with my fourth graders. At this point, I'm not sure if I will use this as a read aloud with the whole group or choose it for a "Breakfast with Books" book club selection. The novel could be read by an individual reader in grades four, five, and/or six. I think middle-school readers would also enjoy the story of Charlie and his family. I highly recommend it for adult readers who enjoy reading middle-grade books. Happy Reading!
Rating: 5 STARS out of 5 Stars