The acclaimed author of Ms. Bixby’s Last Day and Posted returns with an unforgettable tale of love and laughter, of fathers and sons, of what family truly means, and of the ways in which we sometimes need to lose something in order to find ourselves. This middle grade novel is an excellent choice for tween readers in grades 7 to 8, especially during homeschooling. It’s a fun way to keep your child entertained and engaged while not in the classroom.
Rion Kwirk comes from a rather odd family. His mother named him and his sisters after her favorite constellations, and his father makes funky-flavored jellybeans for a living. One sister acts as if she’s always on stage, and the other is a walking dictionary. But no one in the family is more odd than Rion’s grandfather, Papa Kwirk.
He’s the kind of guy who shows up on his motorcycle only on holidays handing out crossbows and stuffed squirrels as presents. Rion has always been fascinated by Papa Kwirk, especially as his son—Rion’s father—is the complete opposite. Where Dad is predictable, nerdy, and reassuringly boring, Papa Kwirk is mysterious, dangerous, and cool.
Which is why, when Rion and his family learn of Papa Kwirk’s death and pile into the car to attend his funeral and pay their respects, Rion can’t help but feel that that’s not the end of his story. That there’s so much more to Papa Kwirk to discover.
He doesn’t know how right he is.
Rion has always felt that his family is strange, but even he is shocked when news of his grandfather's death is delivered via a clown with a singing telegram. This is the first of many surprises for Rion and his food scientist father (who engineers jelly bean flavors), astronomer mother, and two sisters following the death of Papa Kwirk a larger-than-life Vietnam vet who rode a motorcycle and had a knack for giving his grandson inappropriate gifts (slingshots, poker chips). Rion's father, Fletcher, has never forgiven Papa Kwirk for his absent parenting and is content to bury him without resolution, but that proves impossible when they discover that the casket is empty except for one tantalizing clue: "To find me, start digging in our favorite spot." Embarking on a treasure hunt to locate the remains of their patriarch, the Kwirks solve family history based riddles that call into question Fletcher's recollections of an indifferent, alcoholic father. Eccentric yet believable characters and Rion's perceptive narration prevent Anderson's unpredictable tale from feeling overwrought as the relationships between three generations of fathers and sons are rewritten anew. Ages 8 12.