An Occasionally Happy Family

HMH. May 2021. 224p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780358325673.
Gr 3-6–Theo is glad that it is his summer vacation. He thinks about all the fun he will have with his friends, playing video games or going to robotics camp. However, those plans are not in the cards for Theo. He has been roped into going with his dad and older sister to Big Bend National Park, the least popular of all the national parks. While this is a little better than the family’s usual vacation of visiting their grandmother, it’s still a lot of hiking in the woods with bugs and high temperatures. Theo’s dad, a typical high school science teacher, loves nature and is a bit too eager for the trip—he has also not planned all that well. Luckily, Laura excels at planning and has brought better snacks, found more amusing activities, and has even upgraded their overnight stays. Since their mother’s death from cancer a few years ago, Laura’s taken on the role of family organizer. Theo isn’t thrilled about the idea of the long drive with limited electronics time, or doing any of that outdoor camping stuff, but those things end up being the least of his worries. Theo goes from one unpleasant situation to another (including sweltering heat, his dad’s new hiker “friends,” and a close encounter with wildlife) until he finally discovers that his dad’s big secret is a woman he’s been seeing and he wants them to meet. This is a good, realistic, and a funny book about a family in transition. There are plenty of funny moments, and the scenes with Lucrecia hit just the right note.
VERDICT Sure to be a popular title, especially with fans of humor, road trip adventures, and James Patterson’s books.

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