Hawaii boy Calvin Coconut has come up with the best idea ever for his sister Darci's birthday party. But a huge tropical storm hits the islands and threatens everything. It rains and rains. And rains.
The river next to Calvin's house rises high. When Calvin's friend Willy falls into the raging water, Calvin grabs his skiff to save him. As Willy is swept into the bay, Calvin struggles in the wild waves. What happens next shows Calvin what heroes are made of.
Gr 3–5—"You live Hawaii, you live the ocean, ah?" This sentiment is definitely true for nine-year-old Calvin Coconut, whose island home is surrounded by miles of open water. He has grown up learning how to deal with the ocean, both in good situations and bad. Some of his friends do not have this ability, though, which nearly has disastrous consequences. Willy is not as water-savvy as Calvin, and when they are outside during a raging storm, he falls into a river and gets whisked out to sea. It's up to Calvin to hop into his skiff and try to save his friend. Salisbury's latest title in the series has some real potential, but misses the mark in several areas. While it's important to create multicultural protagonists, readers do not come away with a clear picture of Hawaiian customs or way of life. There is a brief mention of Pidgin English, but this may only confuse readers if they haven't encountered it before. Furthermore, Calvin's inner monologues are unrealistically mature for a fourth grader. Finally, the plot feels insubstantial, revolving almost solely around the storm and Willy's rescue, with only a minor subplot about Calvin's sister's birthday. Rogers's sketchy pen-and-ink illustrations add some visual flair but overall this story is unlikely to get kids excited about reading.—Amy Holland, Irondequoit Public Library, NY
GRAHAM SALISBURY is the author of four Calvin Coconut books: Trouble Magnet, The Zippy Fix, Dog Heaven, and Zoo Breath, as well as several novels for older readers, including the award-winning Lord of the Deep, Blue Skin of the Sea, Under the Blood-Red Sun, Eyes of the Emperor, House of the Red Fish, and Night of the Howling Dogs. He lives in Portland, Oregon.
It was going to be the most famous party our street had ever seen. In two days my sister, Darci, was turning seven, and the buzz was the whole neighborhood would be showing up, invited or not. The Coconuts were building a slippery slide.
"Ho, man," I mumbled, squinting up at the sun. "Can it get any hotter?" I'd been trying to think of the perfect birthday present for Darci, something good, something that would really mean something. But it was too hot to think, and I was coming up blank.
Julio humphed. "Where are those clouds when you need them?"
"Or just a breeze," Maya said.
We were sitting on the grass in my front yard: me, my friends Julio Reyes, Willy Wolf, Maya Medeiros, and my black-and-white dog, Streak.
At the bottom of our sloping lawn, a slow-moving river sparkled in the sun. It was the color of rust and almost as wide as half a football field.
Darci and Carlos, Julio's five-year-old brother, were poking around in the swamp grass looking for toads. Carlos had followed Julio down to my house on a pair of homemade tin can stilts.
I popped up on my elbow. "Hey, anyone want to go swimming in the river?"
Julio made a face. "That stinky water?"
Maya shook her head. "The bottom is all mucky. Who wants to step in that?"
They were right. It was smelly and mucky.
Still, you could cool off in it.
"Looks fine to me," Willy said. He was new to Kailua. His family had just moved to the islands from California.
"Go," Julio said. "Jump in. But don't swallow it."
We called it a river, but it really wasn't. It was a drainage canal that carried runoff from the lowlands out to the ocean. I took my skiff out on it all the time, a red rowboat that sat in the swamp grass below us. I got Darci to go with me sometimes, but she didn't like being out on the water. She wasn't a good swimmer.
"So when's Ledward coming?" Willy asked.
Mom was still at work, but her boyfriend, Ledward, was coming over to build the slippery slide for Darci's party . . . a monster slippery slide that would start with a high ramp at the top of our yard and run all the way down to the river.
Carlos stopped searching for toads and looked up at us. The tin can stilts were slung around his neck, two big cans with strings on them. He took them off and stepped up onto them, then clomped up the slope.
Julio groaned and closed his eyes. His brothers drove him crazy. He had four, all younger than him.
"Wanna hear a song?" Carlos said, coming over to us.
I squinted up at Carlos. "Not really."
"Go ahead, Carlos," Maya said. "You can sing your song to me."
"My mom gave me a nickel, she said go buy a pickle, I did not buy a pickle, I--"
"Come on, Carlos," I pleaded. "Go sing it to the toads."