Bestselling author Gary D. Schmidt tells a coming-of-age story with the light touch of The Wednesday Wars, the heart of Okay for Now, and the unique presence of a wise and witty butler.
Carter Jones is astonished early one morning when he finds a real English butler, bowler hat and all, on the doorstep—one who stays to help the Jones family, which is a little bit broken.
In addition to figuring out middle school, Carter has to adjust to the unwelcome presence of this new know-it-all adult in his life and navigate the butler's notions of decorum. And ultimately, when his burden of grief and anger from the past can no longer be ignored, Carter learns that a burden becomes lighter when it is shared.
Sparkling with humor, this insightful and compassionate story will resonate with readers who have confronted secrets of their own.
Schmidt (Orbiting Jupiter) fuses pathos and humor in this adroitly layered novel that opens as Carter answers the doorbell to find a dapper British "gentleman's gentleman," a former employee of the boy's grandfather, whose will bequeathed his service to Carter's family. And they do need some sorting out: the sixth grader's father has been deployed to Germany, and his emotionally fraught mother is struggling to parent her four children alone in New York State. Endearingly devoted to his younger sisters, Carter is reeling from his beloved brother's sudden death, his alienation from his uncommunicative father (hauntingly underscored in flashbacks to an angst-riddled camping trip), and the sickening realization that his father isn't coming home. The butler's strict adherence to decorum and the Queen's English triggers amusing repartee with slang-loving Carter; he also recognizes and assuages the boy's pain by introducing him and his schoolmates to cricket, which gives them all a sense of purpose and pride. Opening each chapter with a definition of a cricket term, Schmidt weaves the sport's jargon into the narrative, further enriching the verbal badinage and reinforcing the affecting bond between a hurting boy and a compassionate man. Ages 10 12.