Middle of Nowhere


A middle-grade novel about two maybe-orphans and their unlikely friendship with a cranky old neighbor. At first Curtis isn't that worried when his mother doesn't come home from her all-night job at the local gas station. She'll be back, he's ten out of ten positive. Besides, Curtis is used to looking after himself and his five-year-old brother, Artie. But when the landlord starts pressuring them for the rent and the authorities start to investigate, it's more than a 12-year-old can handle. Just in time, Mrs. ...

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Middle of Nowhere

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A middle-grade novel about two maybe-orphans and their unlikely friendship with a cranky old neighbor. At first Curtis isn't that worried when his mother doesn't come home from her all-night job at the local gas station. She'll be back, he's ten out of ten positive. Besides, Curtis is used to looking after himself and his five-year-old brother, Artie. But when the landlord starts pressuring them for the rent and the authorities start to investigate, it's more than a 12-year-old can handle. Just in time, Mrs. Burt, the cranky, lonely old lady who lives across the street, offers to take Curtis and Artie to her lakeside cabin for the summer. As summer sails by and the weather grows colder, Mrs. Burt seems to be preparing to spend the winter at the cabin, and Curtis starts to worry. Have they really all just absconded to the lake for a summer holiday? Or have the two boys been kidnapped?

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Caroline Adderson is that rare bird: a writer who brings to the middle-grade novel the artistry and respect it deserves . . .To write them requires a particular skill set, one that Adderson exhibits in spades." — Quill & Quire, starred review
Children's Literature - Elisabeth Greenberg
One night Mom doesn't return to the apartment, so eleven-year-old Curtis takes care of his younger brother Artie. Placed in a foster home where he was bullied at Artie's age, Curtis hides their plight. He only wants to keep his brother happy and safe, but they are running out of food. Reluctantly he befriends an elderly neighbor, Mrs. Burt, who begins to feed the boys in exchange for Curtis running errands. Then life gets more hectic with demanding phone calls from the landlord, visits from the police, and Mrs. Burt's daughter Marianne's attempts to persuade her mother to move. The three of them abscond for the summer to a cabin in the woods and the boys, in the thrill of discovering independence and a mass of camping skills, stop worrying so constantly about their mother...until Curtis realizes that Mrs. Burt isn't planning to go back to the city and she is teaching Artie to dislike his Mom. When a health crisis ensues for Mrs. Burt, Curtis pushes himself to the limit to get help, and all is discovered. This book engages the reader in Curtis' problems and reasoning, offers a wonderful picture of the joys of fishing and the skills needed to survive away from the city, and leavens the dark content with a strong streak of humor based on chivalric stories of King Arthur. Curtis grows in maturity and expands his understanding of other people in his world while Artie learns to conquer some of his many fears. Reviewer: Elisabeth Greenberg
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—When 12-year-old Curtis's mother leaves him and his five-year-old brother, Artie, without warning, Curtis does everything he can to prevent Social Services from finding out. However, he soon discovers that he has an ally: a crotchety elderly neighbor who needs his help as well. Mrs. Burt takes the boys from their rundown apartment to a remote country cabin where Curtis learns about wilderness living, and Artie's allegiances waver. Smooth writing, appropriate pacing, well-chosen details, and a well-crafted sense of place make this book an easy read, particularly in the second half where readers learn about day-to-day life in a remote wilderness and find themselves cheering for the narrator's courage and determination. Curtis's convincingly reasonable voice makes it almost possible to overlook various plot flaws: his utter lack of suspicion or curiosity, or sense of moral dilemma. For a less-problematic hiding-from-social-workers offering, readers might prefer Jennifer Richard Jacobson's Small As an Elephant (Candlewick, 2011), or Traci L. Jones's Silhouetted by the Blue (Farrar, 2011).—Rhona Campbell, Washington DC Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
A mother who disappears, two brothers left alone and a seemingly kindly neighbor make up the ingredients of this unsuccessful story about troubled families. Eleven-year-old Curtis has always helped care for his little brother while their mother works and attends school. Now she has not come home, rent is due and food is running out. Haunted by memories of a horrible foster-care family with whom he stayed the first time his mother left him, Curtis fears that he will be separated from his little brother. Then strange but kindly Mrs. Burt, who lives across the street, offers money and meals. When she takes them to a remote lakeside cabin in British Columbia for the summer, Curtis is slowly drawn into this brave new world of chopping wood, building an outhouse and fishing. In truth, Mrs. Burt has "absconded" with the children because she mourns her son who drowned in the lake 40 years ago. Curtis' mother has not run off but has been badly injured and is lying in a coma. In a few pages of the finale, the narrative flow abruptly wraps up, leaving too many loose ends and unanswered questions. Curtis' first-person narration necessarily limits readers' access to the puzzle, and his easy acceptance of the big reveal strains credulity. The elements of a good story are present, but its telling lacks resonance, character development and depth of understanding. (Fiction. 8-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781554981328
  • Publisher: Groundwood Books
  • Publication date: 8/5/2014
  • Pages: 216
  • Sales rank: 1,176,857
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.20 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Caroline Adderson is the author of several award-winning books. Her works of adult fiction have been nominated for the Governor General’s Award, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the Giller Prize, and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. She is a three-time CBC Literary Award winner, two-time winner of the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, and recipient of the 2006 Marian Engel Award for her body of work. Her children’s books include I, Bruno, nominated for the Chocolate Lily and Shining Willow book awards, Very Serious Children, winner of the Diamond Willow Award and shortlisted for the Rocky Mountain Book Award, and Jasper John Dooley. She is also the author of the picture book Norman, Speak!, forthcoming, which won the Helen Isobel Sissons Canadian Children's Story Award. She lives in Vancouver.
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Read an Excerpt

“Do you understand now, boys, why I can’t ever go into an old folks’ home? Who would help me with my gas?”
“The nurses,” I said.
“Ha. They won’t. They’ll put me in diapers and leave me in the corner.”
“You’re too old for diapers, Mrs. Burt,” Artie said.
“Darn right I am.”
“Who patted your back before we came along?” I asked her.
“Nobody,” Mrs. Burt said. “It was very painful.”
We got quiet after she said that. Even Artie understood how sad it was that Mrs. Burt lived all alone, far from her daughter the Big Shot who just wanted to put her in a home for old people and not help her with her gas. He wrapped his skinny arms around her and Mrs. Burt squeezed him back.
In a quavery voice, she told us, “But I got you now, don’t I? We’re helping each other out.”
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