Monday, July 11, 2016
The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island by Dana Alison Levy
The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher, then you are familiar with the make-up of this wonderfully diverse family. If not, let me introduce you. There is white, gentile Dad, white, Jewish Papa, blond, white Sam, 13, white Eli,11, African American Jax, 11, and Indian American Froggie, 6.
Now, it's August and that means it's time for the Family Fletcher to go on vacation. Fitting four (adopted) boys, one dog, two cats and two dads into their small cottage on Rock Island isn't easy, but luckily there has always been the vacant lighthouse next door in which the boys can play and even have sleepovers. Everyone is pretty excited about their month long vacation and, for all the boys, part of the beauty of Rock Island is that everything is always wonderfully, traditionally the same - that is, until this year.
First, the boys discover that the lighthouse is off limits, surrounded by a giant chain link fence, and on further exploration, a sign that reads For Sale: Contact Town Clerk. Not only is it now off-limits, but there is the possibility that the lighthouse may have to be demolished if it is found unsafe. And then they discover that the family who owns the house next door, the Galindo-Greens, are actually vacationing there this summer. At first, they seem to be pretty annoying, but when their visiting friend Janie leaves, all that changes. Val Galindo is around Sam's age and is obsessed with making videos, filming everything going on around her. Alex Galindo is not only the same age Jax, but likes to do the same kinds of things he does, and it doesn't take long for them to become fast friends.
And then there is the artist Chase Kark, who has plans to buy the lighthouse, and who carries an easel everywhere he goes, but who has never been seen painting. It doesn't take long for the Fletcher/Galindo kids to wonder what's up with him and why he wants to buy the lighthouse so badly, and so they do exactly what I would have done at that age - they follow him and make some surprising discoveries.
Meanwhile, Sam, is once again bitten by the acting bug and finds himself in a production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Eli is told that if he can overcome his fear of kayaking, he can name the baby seal that was rescued after her mother deserted her. And Frog is just beside himself with excitement after finding out that there is now an ice cream truck that drives up and down the streets of Rock Island - no more having riving into town for it.
As much as I anticipated it, I was afraid that the sequel would fall short, but in the case of The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island, Levy has managed to maintain her character's individual personalities throughout, giving the reader a sense a continuity even as they grow and change.
I've spent almost every summer of my life on beaches - from Jones Beach to Rockaway Beach to Coney Island and the Jersey Shore and I could practically smell the salt air, hear the sea gulls cry and taste the ice cream reading The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island. I thought Levy really did a spot on job of creating the Rock Island setting and that glorious feeling of waking up mornings at the beach (despite all the sand that gets everywhere), feeling that I know I share with the Fletcher boys.
And even though the mystery of the lighthouse and its future takes center stage in this novel, it doesn't overwhelm the wonderful chronicle of the family Fletcher's vacation and all the endearing everyday things that happen. The Fletchers are well-known and well-liked by almost everyone on the island and for the most part, the boys have the freedom to roam around, have fun and just be who they are.
For the most part, that is, until African American Jax and Latina Alex are profiled and accused of trying to steal the wallet of Kark's business associate. Jax is understandably very upset by the accusation and it's implication, leading to a serious talk with Papa about race and racists, handled sensitively by Levy. And while Levy doesn't really go into the Fletcher's diverse backgrounds as much in this novel as in her first one, I think she makes a very compelling point here about judging people by the color of their skin and the psychological damage it can cause.
And though the novel has its serious moments, there's also lots of gentle action and humor as well making this a book I highly recommend - it makes for especially wonderful summer reading.
This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL