And now on to less sentimental mush. Here is the book I finished today.
Ry is supposed to be heading off to summer camp in Lynne Rae Perkins' AS EASY AS FALLING OFF THE FACE OF THE EARTH (Greenwillow 2010). He has received numerous mailings form the camp he will attend while his parents are on a vacation out of the country and his grandfather comes to take care of their dogs. Unfortunately, Ry has not paid too much attention to the last letter, the one telling him that summer camp has been, well, canceled. He hops off his train to try to get a cell phone signal and call his parents. And that is when the train leaves him behind, the first in a series of bizarre events that will affect not just Ry but his parents, his grandfather, and even the dogs.
Ry wanders dazed into a neighborhood where he meets Del. Del is a fixer, literally and figuratively. He and Ry head to Ry's home to see what has happened with Ry's grandfather who is not answering the phone. It will be a journey that is fraught with small challenges, danger, eccentric characters, and a myriad of emotions. It is a journey that will transform Ry and his family and the new friends he makes along the way. Perkins' first novel was about a magical summer where seemingly nothing happens and yet all sorts of things DO occur. Here is a novel where EVERYTHING happens and yet they happen so quietly and so convincingly that somehow it all makes sense.
I hated to see this story end. Ry and Del are memorable guys who, on the surface, seem to be polar opposites. That is not the case, as readers will discover as they let themselves fall off the face of the earth and take the plunge into uncertainty. The language is simple (not simplistic, though) and the story is episodic. I particularly loved the chapters told from the dogs' point of view and done in almost comic book style illustrations. The connections between and among all of the events are present but not contrived. Perkins weaves a wonderful story of love and friendship and taking chances and facing fears and accepting the joy that comes with all of that.