This new offering by Kekla Magoon is wonderfully unique. It’s not often that a chapter book features a friendship between a couple of preteen brothers and a sixteen-year-old boy. What’s more, the brothers are naive, living with their mother and overprotective father, while the older boy, Styx, has been seasoned by a life without parents, instead being bounced from one foster home to another. But it is this juxtaposition of friendship, different ages, different upbringings, that makes for an intriguing story.
When the brothers, Caleb and Bobby Gene, meet Styx, they are enthralled by his “worldliness”, his charisma and ability to persuade. And persuade he does. The brothers come into the possession of a bag of fireworks and Styx immediately sees the explosives as a ticket to trade. Exchanging one item for the next, Styx plans to trade up until they reach their goal………a bright green moped for sale by the owner of the local hardware store. Along the way and through the trades, Caleb gets a taste of the confidence and independence Styx possesses and becomes a devoted follower of the teen. Bobby Gene is impressed, as well, but,nonetheless tries to stay within the rules and boundaries set by his parents. Styx talks the pair into increasingly risky actions, including hopping a train to a nearby town. As their parents discover their blatant disregard for family norms, the situation escalates. The brothers, sneaking out, are involved in the theft of a lawn mower engine. When the theft is revealed, father’s anger leads him to turn Styx in for masterminding the crime.
A decision to relocate Styx to yet another new foster home is made. At this point, the brothers feel they have been disloyal to Styx. The hurt and loneliness held inside Styx is now evident. Should Caleb and Bobby Gene disobey their parents one more time to make things right? Will their father finally see their need for freedom and the importance of Styx’s friendship?
This realistic chapter book is a real page-turner, with high emotion and action galore. Magoon deftly draws a picture in words of an unconventional friendship in which young brothers expand their world and themselves, while the lonely teenager learns lessons about life and love from his two unlikely young friends. It effectively relates the struggles of kids, families and friendships to stay safe and be loved while also allowing personal growth and enough autonomy to become extraordinary.
Due to some content, I recommend that this book be read aloud by an adult to fourth and possibly fifth grade children. Sixth graders, reading independently, may still have questions or need clarification about the following topics: smoking seeming cool to Styx, brief mention of Styx having a girlfriend (the younger boys are confused about the relationship), boy’s nocturnal dreams (also briefly mentioned) , a violent traffic accident and children intentionally disobeying family rules.
Written by Kekla Magoon
Accelerated Reader Level: No test exists yet
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