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Stranger in Dadland

Stranger in Dadland

by Amy Goldman Koss

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Every summer John flies to Los Angeles for his  visit with Dad. But one week a year isn't a lot of time for father/son bonding, particularly when your father is a workaholic who never seems to have time for his son. Not to mention that Dad always has a new girlfriend hanging around. In the past it's been near impossible to grab some quality time with his father,


Every summer John flies to Los Angeles for his  visit with Dad. But one week a year isn't a lot of time for father/son bonding, particularly when your father is a workaholic who never seems to have time for his son. Not to mention that Dad always has a new girlfriend hanging around. In the past it's been near impossible to grab some quality time with his father, but this summer John refuses to give up. He's sick of feeling like a stranger in "Dadland."

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Describing a 12-year-old boy's relationship with his divorced, workaholic father, Koss (The Girls) offers witty commentary on the foibles and pretensions of adults, but her story line lacks the punch of her previous novels. John, the narrator, has always spent the annual week in "Dadland" with his older sister, Liz, but this year Liz has stayed home, refusing to be disappointed again by their "Phantom Father." As he flies alone from Kansas to Los Angeles, John hopes his father won't spend the entire visit in meetings or with yet another girlfriend. But right away Dad introduces a new girlfriend (who paints on her eyebrows, cracks gum and sings along to embarrassing Musak) and then he disappears for a day's worth of appointments. Dad can't even offer a word of comfort when Mom calls with the news that John's dog has died. By phone, Liz switches from angry to wise, counseling John that perhaps their dad "wants to be a good father but he's just entirely clueless." Koss is hilarious on Los Angeles, the behavior of people in office buildings and the adults' preoccupations with hot restaurants, expensive cars, etc., and John's delivery proves once again the author's unusual insight into middle-graders and their concerns. In the end, however, she lets the father off far too easily and whitewashes the well-built conflicts. Ages 10-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Every summer John flies from his home in Kansas to spend a week with his divorced father in Los Angeles. He always hopes that they will spend lots of time together and really get to know each other, but every year so far John has been disappointed and ended up feeling like a "stranger in Dadland." This year, John's older sister has refused to come along, but otherwise 12-year-old John's visit starts out like any other: "the plan is that my dad works all the time and stays busy. And I either tag along, bored to death, or sit and wait, bored to death." His father's new gum-chewing girlfriend doesn't help, though John likes her spunky teenage niece, Iris. John also makes friends with a boy down the hall. Still, it's his father he really wants to connect with, and encouraged by the perceptions of his new friends, he finally speaks out and makes his feelings known. A funny though ill-fated rollerblading outing leads to the closeness with his father John has longed for, and the two of them get a chance to spend time together and know each other at last. Koss, author of The Girls, The Ashwater Experiment (reviewed in paperback in this issue), and other novels for YAs, proves again that she has a real understanding of the emotional life of younger YAs in this amusing, touching, and realistic tale. She has real affection for her characters, the quirky minor ones as well as the main characters, and the reader quickly comes to care for them too. KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 2001, Penguin Putnam, Dial, 120p. 99-462100., $16.99. Ages 13 to 15. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick; KLIATT , July 2001 (Vol. 35, No. 4)
Twelve-year-old John wants nothing more than to have a real vacation with his father. Since his parents' divorce, he sees his dad for only one week out of the year. John lives the rest of the year with his mom and sister in Kansas; the contrast to his dad's lifestyle in California is stark. Each visit, John and his older sister, Liz, hope that their dad will pay attention to them, and each year they are disappointed. This year Liz decides not to go, saying that there is "no room for her" in their father's busy life. John, on the other hand, is determined to get to know his dad, and he arrives full of hope for a different experience. His expectations are dashed quickly when his father carries on his schedule of high-stress meetings in Silicon Valley, long power lunches, and endless telephone calls. John is left to his own devices and makes friends with some other teenagers in the neighborhood. When his father injures himself rollerblading and is forced to stay off his feet, however, he and John are able to spend some quiet time getting to know each other, just as John desired. Stranger in Dadland is a brief, funny look at cross-country divorced families. John's sarcastic sense of humor will have fellow young teens laughing aloud. This book should appeal to middle schoolers and early high school students, perhaps in conjunction with peer counseling related to divorced families. The humor and brevity should appeal to reluctant or struggling readers as well. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2001, Dial, 128p, . Ages 12 to 15. Reviewer:Dana Vance SOURCE: VOYA, April 2001 (Vol. 24, No.1)
School Library Journal
Gr 5-7-Twelve-year-old John is off to spend a week with his father in California. He has never made the trip alone before, having previously traveled with his older sister. However, this year, Liz has declared that she has no desire to visit "dadland," no wish to spend yet another week hoping that their father will take time from his busy schedule to actually pay attention to his children. John's visit doesn't get off to an auspicious start-Dad has a new girlfriend and an endless round of meetings, but when he has a skateboarding accident, everything changes and the two learn a great deal about their relationship. Koss's lightweight, adolescent problem novel gains much from her ability to hone in on the perceptions and language of young people. Although the contemporary jargon may soon become pass , right now there are many kids who will understand and appreciate John's predicament exactly the way he tells it.-Sharon Grover, Arlington County Department of Libraries, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In this poignant, witty novel, Koss turns her attention away from girls and girl groups (The Girls, 2000) to offer some fresh insights about fathers and sons. Twelve-year-old John is on his way to California for his annual one-week visit with his divorced dad. Although his father has historically kept John at arm's length by refusing to make time in his busy schedule to focus on him, John hopes that this time things will finally change. But after accompanying his father on a date and spending a day cooling his heels in various office lobbies while his dad attends business meetings, John comes to the sad realization that the week he looks forward to every year is, from his father's point of view, "nothing special." Luckily, insight from a delightfully off-center neighbor boy, coupled with a rollerblading accident that leaves John's dad temporarily incapacitated, gives John the much-needed opportunity to begin to connect with his father. It may be true that the death of John's dog seems beside the point, the rollerblading mishap feels dramatically forced and the transformation of John's father from completely closed to, if not warm and fuzzy, at least genuine and fatherly, is a little too sudden to be credible. Still, it is counterbalanced by the deftness of the writing and the humor and charm of the first-person narrative. But it's the fact that the reader so badly wants for John what he wants for himself that makes this book such a winning creation.(Fiction. 10-14)

Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
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Penguin Group
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File size:
198 KB
Age Range:
10 Years

Meet the Author

Amy Goldman Koss (amygoldmankoss.net) is the author of critically acclaimed novels The GirlsThe Trouble with Zinny Weston, and How I Saved Hanukkah. Ms. Koss both wrote and illustrated Curious Creatures in Peculiar Places, a selection of the 1989 John Burroughs List of Outstanding Nature Books for Children, and Where Fish Go in Winter, a Book-of-the-Month Club Selection. She lives in Glendale, California, with her husband, two children, and many pets.

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