Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe
Jo Watson Hackl
It’s amazing the number of children who are put in situations where they feel they need to solve their families’ problems. Or, at the very least, not make the problems worse. Children who have a parent off to war feel the tension and either silently try to be perfect or take over parenting their younger siblings or some show some other behavior that leaves the children with stunted emotional growth.
Ms. Hackl’s wonderful book deals with the troubles of twelve-year-old Cricket whose father is dead and whose mother is probably bi-polar. From the opening sentence the book pulls the reader right in: Turns out, it’s easier than you might think to sneak out of town smuggling a live cricket, three pocketfuls of jerky, and two bags of half-paid-for merchandise from Thelma’s Cash ‘n’ Carry grocery store. Well, wouldn’t you keep reading?
Cricket’s mama has gone off on another of her quests to find a room she remembers seeing as a child. The room is full of birds. Well, actually they’re paintings of birds, but the paintings are so alive the viewer is sure the birds will fly right off the wall and out the window. Mama has been obsessed with finding that room ever since. Other people say the room is not real. That was just her imagination. And the reader can just hear the people sniggering and whispering “See? She really is crazy.”
Cricket is sure if she can just find that room Mama will come back for good and never feel the need to roam again. Any child who has had a parent go missing for what ever reason will relate to, firmly, to believe that the child can find the parent and make things right. So Cricket runs away from home to find the room and her mother. She takes with her the cricket she rescued from Thelma’s Cash ‘n’ Carry to help her find what she needs. Along the way the pair have many adventures and lots of emotional growth. No, I’m not telling you the ending, you’ll have to read the book. But you’ll indeed enjoy the journey and the people you meet along the way.
I personally can relate to feeling the need to make things better and to find my missing father. Actually, he really was killed in WWII and I never knew him, but I always fantasized that he would show up at Walter Reed Army Hospital with amnesia and I would reunite him with our family. That is until I had grown up myself and knew that I had no real connection to him.
Do read this book, it will show you how children stay strong.
BIBLIO: 2018, A Yearling Book/Penguin Random House, Ages 8 to 12, $7.99.
REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan
FORMAT: Middle Grade