After eight-year-old Kevin Mason's mother abandons him, he takes refuge in his fantasy of becoming Knuckles McGraw, a tough cowboy roaming the plains on his legendary horse, Burlington Northern. But instead of riding the range, Kevin is stuck in a foster home with a pierced and tattooed teenager named Ice and a mute girl named Breezy. While he waits to be claimed by the father he barely remembers or the mother who left him a good-bye note in his lunchbox, Kevin (aka Knuckles McGraw) tries to communicate with ...
After eight-year-old Kevin Mason's mother abandons him, he takes refuge in his fantasy of becoming Knuckles McGraw, a tough cowboy roaming the plains on his legendary horse, Burlington Northern. But instead of riding the range, Kevin is stuck in a foster home with a pierced and tattooed teenager named Ice and a mute girl named Breezy. While he waits to be claimed by the father he barely remembers or the mother who left him a good-bye note in his lunchbox, Kevin (aka Knuckles McGraw) tries to communicate with Breezy, learns to get along with his bunkhouse-mate Ice, and discovers that memories can be as deceptive as family secrets.
"Peterson's fiction is a welcomed addition to an elementary school library…She incorporates interesting characters, well-developed plots, and sensitive handling of realistic issues written at an appropriate age level. I tip my cowboy hat to Peterson and the 'Orca Young Readers' series and hope I will be reading more of her work in the future. Highly Recommended."
"Readers will certainly be drawn to the plucky, appealing grade-schooler and the terrible plight he so bravely faces."
Library Media Connection
"The author understands how kids think, a fact that will allow the kids in your library to thoroughly enjoy this book...Recommended."
Canadian Children's Book News
"A humorous yet sensitive story…[Peterson] fills the story with a host of characters who are unusual yet kind and as we hear their stories we develop empathy for each of them."
"Peterson...has written another great story for young readers. While the story is simply crafted, her language is a delight and readers will be kept engaged...The book exceeds tremendously in inspiring hope."
- Claudia Mills
When eight-year-old Kevin Mason opens his thrift-shop Wagon Train lunchbox one day at school, he finds his single mother's note: "Please look after my son. I can't take care of him any more." As he is taken by the welfare lady to his new foster home to await possible reunification with the maternal grandparents he never remembers ever having met, he re-creates himself as legendary cowboy Knuckles McGraw, who rides across the wild plains toward the sun with his faithful steed Burlington Northern. While Kevin's poignant escape into fantasy is believably developed, the shape of this story, several decades after the publication of Katherine Paterson's The Great Gilly Hopkins, with its many imitators, is by now extremely familiar. Kevin's companions in foster care are predictably damaged, difficult, and oddly named—Breezy, who has been mute ever since the death of her parents; and tattooed and pierced Ice, who of course has a kind heart under his tough exterior. Kevin predictably comes to care for both of them in his short time with his foster family and predictably leaves them better able to face the challenge of new life with his grandparents and he is able to let go of his Knuckles McGraw identity to return to being Kevin Mason once again. Reviewer: Claudia Mills, Ph.D.
Lois Peterson wrote short stories and articles for adults for twenty years before turning to writing for kids. She was born in England and has lived in Iraq, France and the United States. Retired from her job as a librarian, she now lives in Surrey, British Columbia, where she writes, reads and teaches creative writing to adults, teens and children.
If Burlington Northern were tied up outside, Knuckles McGraw could leap through the window right onto his back and gallop away before anyone knew he was gone. But for now he has to creep down the stairs, avoiding the creaky ones, carrying his shoes in one hand and his lunch kit in the other. He shoves his shoes under his arm so he can turn the front-door handle. It opens without making a sound.