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The Vacation
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The Vacation

4.0 1
by Polly Horvath

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From the author of the Newbery Honor Book Everything on a Waffle

When his mother decides on a whim to be a missionary in Africa and drags his unwilling father with her, Henry is left in the care of his Aunts Magnolia and Pigg. Henry's sure they dislike him and he's trying to keep his distance, but that becomes more difficult when Mag decides they


From the author of the Newbery Honor Book Everything on a Waffle

When his mother decides on a whim to be a missionary in Africa and drags his unwilling father with her, Henry is left in the care of his Aunts Magnolia and Pigg. Henry's sure they dislike him and he's trying to keep his distance, but that becomes more difficult when Mag decides they should take a destination-less road trip. Mag, convalescing from an illness that makes her look like death, is downright crabby. Pigg, tense from driving, is becoming more assertive and less willing to submit to Mag's whims. And while they poke each other—literally—Henry is finding it hard to keep his resolution.
They go to Virginia Beach (it's too hot); try camping in the Everglades (Henry accidentally spends four days floating in a swamp); visit their daddy, Henry's granddaddy (Henry's never met him!); and lose Pigg to love in Oklahoma (what would the radio psychologist Daly Kramer say?) before they finally receive word that Henry's parents are coming back and will meet them in Tulsa to finish the trip with Mag and Henry. But his parents are bickering and Henry is in despair – until he surrenders to the road and decides to let whatever happens happen, but to be there in it all.
Complete with her signature cast of eccentric characters, absurd situations, and heartfelt moments, Polly Horvath writes an on-the-road epic like no other!

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“* At once poignant, funny, and wise, this book gives new meaning to the phrase 'The best journeys never end.'” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“* Horvath spins another delightfully offbeat yarn, complete with her signature cast of eccentric characters, wacky situations, poignant moments, and snappy dialogue. Another hit for Horvath.” —School Library Journal, starred review

“A new offering from the queen of offbeat is always a welcome holiday.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Bitingly funny. A celebration of the clarity that can come when one simply decides just to be.” —The Horn Book

“Horvath's unhurried eccentricity is perfectly suited to this kind of picaresque novel. Horvath fans . . . will want to grab a seat on this wierd yet compelling road trip.” —The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Publishers Weekly
Horvath (The Canning Season) possesses the unique ability to make extraordinary events (such as brushes with death) appear perfectly ordinary while extracting something profound from occurrences as run-of-the-mill as a jaunt to the bookstore. In this novel filled with equally quirky characters and misadventures, the author traces 12-year-old narrator Henry's memorable summer road trip with his Aunt Magnolia and Aunt Pigg. His mother is acting as a Mormon missionary in Africa and has taken his father with her ("I don't wish to be known as Norman the Mormon," Henry's father says in one of many unforgettable lines), and they experience more than their fair share of excitement abroad (Henry's mother gets lost in the Ugandan jungle; his father contracts malaria). But the hero becomes involved in his own mini-drama, touring the southern states in an unairconditioned car with his bickering relatives. Along the way, the boy meets his grandfather for the first time, wanders off in the Everglades with an autistic child and bids adieu to Aunt Pigg, who decides to set down roots with a Texas rancher. The places Henry visits seem as arbitrary and disconnected as his chance encounters with colorful locals, but the sum of his experiences lead to some life-altering conclusions about surviving in an unpredictable world. At once poignant, funny and wise, this book gives new meaning to the phrase, "The best journeys never end." Ages 10-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Once more Polly Horvath shares her own particular view of the Human Comedy. It is a dark vision, bordering on the macabre as twelve-year-old (going on eighty) Henry narrates the tale of his colossally dysfunctional family in deadpan style. Does not every kid have a totally non-religious mother who drags his father off to Africa to be a missionary, then gets lost on a primates tour of Uganda? Do not all parents dump their child on two bickering, children-hating spinster aunts? Not to mention the road trip from hell when Henry mysteriously disappears for four days in a mangrove swamp with an autistic boy. Henry, however, is a born philosopher and manages to squeeze lemonade from most of his lemons. Along the way there are small epiphanies gleaned from the equally eccentric folks chanced upon in the hinterlands. Horvath's book is as odd and eccentric as her characters as it meanders from Virginia Beach to Mesa Verde, Henry always missing the real highlights. Yet one keeps reading to learn what could possibly happen—or not—next. 2005, Farrar Straus Giroux, Ages 8 to 12.
—Kathleen Karr
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-Horvath spins another delightfully offbeat yarn, complete with her signature cast of eccentric characters, wacky situations, poignant moments, and snappy dialogue. Twelve-year-old Henry's mother decides on a whim to be a missionary in Africa and drags his father along, leaving Henry in the care of his aunts, Magnolia and Pigg, for several months. Mag, turning 40 and recovering from an obscure disease, decides that they need a vacation. They embark on a destination-less car trip that feels more like a kidnapping to the boy. The aunts bicker and are nasty. Virginia Beach is too hot. In the Everglades, Henry accidentally spends four days floating in a swamp with an autistic boy. Pigg falls in love with a cowboy in Oklahoma and stays there. During the trip, they receive word that Henry's mother followed a chimp into the bush and got lost. She's finally found, but Henry's father contracts malaria. Eventually, word comes that the parents will meet Mag and Henry in Tulsa to finish the trip. Unfortunately, Henry's parents are either fighting or not speaking. Although at first he works hard to get them to see one another as he sees them, he finally realizes that he is not responsible for their happiness or their problems. Horvath again introduces a young person who is parentless for some reason and who is put in the care of distant, idiosyncratic relatives who change the child's perception of life. This latest book, like its predecessors, bounces from the hilarious to the heartrending. Another hit for Horvath.-Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
His impulsive mother having decided to do Good Works in Africa, 12-year-old Henry abruptly finds himself in the decidedly un-maternal care of quarrelsome, forty-ish aunts Magnolia and Pigg. In the wake of Mag's bout with a gruesome blood disease, the two decide to take a vacation in Virginia Beach-a vacation which turns into an aimless, marathon drive down to Florida, out through Texas, up to Mount Rushmore and thence on a swing through the Midwest. Along the way Henry floats into a swamp with an autistic child for three days, sees Aunt Pigg fall in love with a rancher, is reunited with his squabbling parents in Tulsa after their African sojourn collapses in disaster and ultimately comes round to the conviction that a person's character is best shaped from what's inside, not by outside circumstances. Fair enough-but the steady flow of sour outlooks, ill-humored repartee and self-pitying comments is a bit much, even for Horvath. Some will laugh; some will be put off, Horvath fans included. But a new offering from the queen of offbeat is always a welcome holiday. (Fiction. 11-13)

Product Details

Square Fish
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
7.50(w) x 5.20(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

From The Vacation

I must admit the beach was hot. I do not know why I didn’t expect this. I guess when you see beaches in magazine ads they look as if they are always a temperature for perfect comfort. We put our towels down, and Aunt Mag and Aunt Pigg lay on the sand where flies would land on them and then apparently change their minds. I watched this for a while. Then Aunt Magnolia sat up. "I'm too hot, Pigg," she said.

"I know what you mean," said Aunt Pigg. "But let’s give it a while longer"

They lay down again, and then Aunt Magnolia said, "How much longer?"

"Maybe we should get wet first," said Aunt Pigg. “Then we’ll be just the right temperature.”

"I don’t want to get in the water," said Aunt Magnolia. So Aunt Pigg went down to the water alone. She came back screaming. There were long thin whip marks over one shin.

“Jellyfish," said Aunt Magnolia reflectively. "I've seen them on the Discovery Channel. Must be very painful."

"Argh, argh, argh!" Aunt Pigg was shouting and hopping around on the good leg."

"Well, just lie down on the sand and put some wet sand on it," suggested Aunt Magnolia.

"Is that what you’re supposed to do?" asked Aunt Pigg.

"I don’t know," said Aunt Magnolia, lying back down herself and closing her eyes. "You know, I think I’m beginning to enjoy this. I feel a cool breeze stirring."

Meet the Author

Polly Horvath is the author of many books for young people, including Everything on a Waffle, The Pepins and Their Problems, The Canning Season, and The Trolls. Her numerous awards include the Newbery Honor, the National Book Award for Young People's Literature, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor, the Vicky Metcalf Award for Children's Literature, the Mr. Christie Award, the International White Raven, and the Young Adult Canadian Book of the Year. Horvath grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She attended the Canadian College of Dance in Toronto and the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance in New York City. She has taught ballet, waitressed, done temporary typing, and tended babies, but while doing these things she has always also written. Now that her children are in school, she spends the whole day writing, unless she sneaks out to buy groceries, lured away from her desk by the thought of fresh Cheez Whiz. She lives on Vancouver Island with her husband and two daughters.

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Vacation 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Polly Horvath's up to her old tricks again - writing clever, concise laugh out loud funny prose. 'The Vacation' introduces Henry. Now, Henry ought to be used to rather outre adults because his father, who works for the Fillmore Brush Company, vows his deep affection for his son, urges him to keep safe and then orders him not to die. His mother, on the other hand, has found a mission. Although she's not in the least religious, she's decided to become a missionary in Africa. Father would much rather stay on the road for the brush company but off they go leaving Henry in the care of Aunt Magnolia and Aunt Pigg. While Henry's parents are a bit unique, his aunts are bizarre. Upon their arrival Henry moves into his closet to get as far from them as he can. But, he is to be closer to them than he has ever dreamed. For this eccentric pair decide it's time to take a trip, although they're not quite sure about a destination. Aunt Magnolia (who is recovering from a recent illness) wants to go to the beach, so the trio drive off to Virginia Beach. The lure of sand and sun soon wear thin so Aunt Magnolia decides she wants to see some blue grass in Kentucky. They take to the road again. After they view the blue grass from their car door, Aunt Pigg decides she wants to see the Everglades. Well, you get the picture. 'The Vacation' is a witty, surprising travelogue as the trio motor across the country and poor Henry becomes lost in a Florida swamp. It should be mentioned that he's not the only one missing - his mother has disappeared in an African jungle. Newbery Honor author Polly Horvath has a fertile imagination and non-stop humor that's sure to appeal to younger readers. - Gail Cooke