Pay Attention, Carter Jones
by Gary D. Schmidt, published 2019
“I decided to revolt. I mean, wiping up dog vomit, nearly drowning in an Australian tropical thunderstorm, drinking tea with mild and sugar, and I haven’t even told you about the forty-five minutes of Mr. Barkus’s word problems.”
Here’s a great combo: laughter and serious problems, absurdities and real-life difficulties, put together in one terrific children’s book. Learning cricket in America? Father not coming home because he’s found another family? A butler? All of this is skillfully melded and imho, models how to write a great children’s book.
There is so much that makes this children’s book work. Start with the character of the Butler, straight out of any British drama, with his dry humor and relentless attention to detail. You want to read the book just to see more of him. Then there’s Carter, who is a perfect model of a normal American kid, in need of a little attention to detail! These two characters carry the book, even as we meet everyone else who has a role. They are clearly defined and quite unforgettable.
Finally, this children’s book really tackles a tricky situation – a blow-up between a father and son, and the guilt that the son carries when his father opts out of the family. What child hasn’t felt, “It’s because of me.” But we watch that story get destroyed bit by bit. In the end, there is only a shining new family configuration, and a young boy who has gone through a threshold of growing up.
Part of the story revolves around learning the game of cricket. Honestly, I began to skip much of the cricket stuff, and it didn’t impact my delight with the book. So you can decide if you are in or out with the whole sticky wicket :). In any case, this children’s book is a must for young boys. I’ve enjoyed and reviewed one other book by the same author, though I am not yet familiar with others in his large repertoire of writing.