Lynn: Longtime Booklist readers know that Y chromosomes dominate my family, as we have two sons and five grandsons. Three of the grandsons are with us before and after school and all summer, so I feel as if I understand little boys well! So believe me when I tell you that Dana Allison Levy writes with complete authenticity about life with a family of rambunctious boys in her wonderful book, The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher (2014).
Two dads, four boys who are ethnically diverse, and even male pets make up the household, topped off by an imaginary friend that happens to be a cheetah. Each chapter focuses on one of the boys and whatever problem, issue, or crazy stunt is his current preoccupation. Sam, the popular athlete, has discovered a gift for drama, while Eli, who begged to be allowed to attend a pricey school for the gifted, HATES the new experience. Jax has an assignment that may be impossible to complete and a best friend who seems to be growing distant, and kindergartner Frog really wants a kitten. Charming and often laugh-out-loud funny, while the issues resulting from the diversity are smoothly handled, this is mainly an old-fashioned book about a loving family.
I especially love the notes from the dads that start the chapters. I assure you, some of them could have been written by me for my grandsons! For example:
TO WHOEVER FINISHED THE COOKIES AND PUT BACK THE EMPTY BOX:
We are collecting clues and are hot on your trail. Be warned.
Inevitable comparisons have been made to the Penderwick series by Birdsall, and while those are spot on, Levy has created her very own set of memorable characters who are oh-so-real and dealing with a very modern set of circumstances. I adored each and every one of these guys and rooted and ached for them in turn. What a terrific family read-aloud this will be! So warm up some hot chocolate, break out the cookies (if there are any left) and enjoy.
You definitely want to learn from the Fletchers
and remember to cook the turkey!
Cindy: I was going to let this go as a solo post from Lynn since I have a lot of deadlines, but then I read Lynn’s section and decided I would just read a couple of chapters. This is now my new favorite fiction book of the year, and I can’t wait to booktalk it to my sixth-graders. It reminds me of my beloved Hilary McKay books—creative, fun-loving, messy children, with loving but firm parents. The humor will appeal to any adults who read this with children, but the escapades and trials of the boys here will engage young readers who go it alone.
The Fletcher boys play soccer, ice skate, build model bridges, take on a school musical, and do their homework together. They have “Fletcher Family Rules” that keep most things running smoothly. One of my favorites was the rule that on the first and last day of school each school-going family member (including one of the dads that is a school teacher), gets the dinner food of their choice. The odd combination of requests make for an interesting meal! Speaking of meals, the chapter about their attempt at making Thanksgiving dinner is a hoot. Side dishes are hard enough, but you definitely want to learn from the Fletchers and remember to cook the turkey!
There are subtle lessons here amid the fun, but the sense of family is the charm. And families can come in lots of forms. The Fletchers are winners and I hope we will see more of them. Put this on your We Need Diverse Books list!