There is hope for Middle Grade fiction.
It is rare that any story evokes a laugh-out-loud moment from me, a feeling of melancholy or even tears. That Benjamin Klas managed to do all three in his book is, well, astounding. Written at an uncomplicated Middle Grade level (ages 8-12), Second Dad Summer excels both in its simplicity and depth. Klas’ debut novel shines by highlighting incredibly detailed characters, nuanced plot points and a warm, narrative flow.
The story revolves around Jeremiah, who visits his Dad for the Summer. Dad, as it turns out, has a live-in boyfriend who is constantly trying to ingratiate himself into Jeremiah’s life. Jeremiah, as most kids who are going through new circumstances, is none-to-pleased. Add a cranky neighbor, a mom who lives miles away but calls routinely to check-in, and a new friend to the mix, for the makings of a summer with interesting and surprising plot twists. No, the biggest twist is not that Dad has a boyfriend. That’s established in the first couple of pages. More interesting things are in store. But this review, is spoiler free!
Klas’ use of language is both sophisticated and nuanced. While still keeping the reading ability of his target audience in mind, Klas manages to evoke complicated feelings and thoughts. His characters speak in plain words, but imagery still flows. For example, Jeremiah observes: “[w]e all sat down, Dad between Michael and me, connecting us and thankfully separating us too.” Yet another example: “[e]ven though I knew I needed to, it felt wrong to break apart the roots which clung so tightly to the soil they had known for so long.” The ability to write in pictures is rare. To see it in a debut story is rarer. To see it in a story for the Middle Grade level is rarer still. This is Karl’s first book; hopefully it’s the first of many.
My one quibble with the book is the illustrations. Notably, Jeremiah’s Dad does not live up to the description in the story; and, Michael is virtually always in the same stereotypical effeminate pose. Fortunately, the illustrations are brief and do not detract from an otherwise outstanding debut.
This is a definite buy and keep for the Middle Grade level. It should be a part of any well-rounded library. And that’s, why it stays on my bookshelf.
Second Dad Summer
One Elm Books
Second Dad Summer (Hardcover at Amazon)*
More books for this Age Group can be found here.
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My thanks to NetGalley and the Publisher for providing an Advance Copy of this book prior to its publication. The views expressed herein are my own.
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