Monday, September 26, 2011


By Gary D. Schmidt
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Rating: 4 1/4 stars

Henry Smith lives in an old house on the North Shore of Massachusetts in a small town.  His family has been there for generations, and his brother Franklin and sister Louisa attend the prep school in town and do all the proper things a Smith should do.  Then one night, the unthinkable happens--Franklin, the one with a future so bright, is hit by a pick up truck driven by Chay Chuoan, a Cambodian immigrant student who fell asleep at the wheel.  Franklin's accident reverbrates throughout the small community, fanning fires of hatred and resentment towards the nearby Cambodian immigrants.  Henry's family, meanwhile, falls apart--his parents and sister are barely able to function, and Henry is only able to survive when he rescues a starving black dog from the ocean and takes her in.  The family is even more at a loss when Chay gets a very light sentence.  One more thing keeps Henry going--he and Franklin had been planning to climb Maine's Mount Katahdin and Henry latches onto the idea of hiking it on his own for the sake of his brother.  So it is that Henry, his best friend Sanborn and Black Dog all sneak out one night to get to the mountain to climb it...but they find help in an unlikely source.  And the help they find makes Henry see everything differently because there is never just one side to any story.  A fabulous tale of breaking apart and coming back together and seeing the world as a whole, both good and bad.  Wonderful.