by Gary D. Schmidt

“If you build your house far enough away from Trouble, Trouble will never find... read more

“If you build your house far enough away from Trouble, Trouble will never find you,” Henry’s father is fond of saying. But Trouble does find Henry and his family when his older brother, Franklin, is hit by a car while jogging. The last word he says to Henry is “Katahdin”—a mountain in Maine that the brothers had planned on climbing together. Franklin once suggested that Henry didn’t have the guts for it, so Henry takes Franklin’s utterance as both a command and a challenge, and decides to secretly set off after school is out. He convinces his friend Sanborn to go along, and they hit the road hitchhiking with Black Dog, a stray Henry rescued from drowning. When they are finally picked up, it’s by Chay Chouen, the teenage boy who was arrested for killing Franklin. Chay had gotten off with what many considered a slap on the wrist, generating bad blood between the white citizens and Chay’s Cambodian immigrant community. Henry doesn’t want to be in a car with Chay, but it’s the only ride they’ve been offered. Soon it’s clear that Chay is fighting many demons and is taking flight. Over the course of what becomes a shared journey, Henry and Chay come to understand each other as the truth about what happened that night on the road, and about the kind of person Franklin was and Chay is, are revealed. Part road trip, part survival story, this is above all a journey to redemption. Gary D. Schmidt’s descriptive passages are stunning and memorable, whether he’s writing of the beauty of the natural landscape or the antics of Black Dog. The novel that looks at racism, class issues, and the power of personal integrity is rich in symbolism as well. (Age 13 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2009

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