The Most Important Thing: Stories about Sons, Fathers, and Grandfathers

The Most Important Thing: Stories about Sons, Fathers, and Grandfathers

by Avi

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Overview

One of the most beloved writers of our time presents seven short stories exploring the vital ties between fathers and sons.

Luke sees the ghost of his father but can’t figure out what Dad wants him to do. Paul takes a camping trip with the grandfather he’s just met and discovers what lies behind the man’s erratic behavior. Ryan has some surprising questions when he interviews his prospective stepfather for the job. In a compellingly honest collection of stories, multiple-award-winning author Avi introduces seven boys — boys with fathers at home and boys whose fathers have left, boys who spend most of their time with their grandfathers and boys who would rather spend time with anyone but the men in their lives. By turns heartbreaking, hopeful, and funny, the stories show us boys seeking acceptance, guidance, or just someone to look up to. Each one shines a different light on the question “What is the most important thing a father can do for his son?”

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

★ 02/01/2016
In these seven short stories from Avi (Catch You Later, Traitor), the relationships among fathers, grandfathers, and sons are as varied as the clearly delineated characters themselves. There’s eighth-grader Paul, who is a virtual stranger to his war-veteran grandfather until they are unexpectedly thrown together for a week. In contrast, Luke, 12, is so connected to his father that they are able to communicate even after an accident physically tears them apart. Then there’s 11-year-old Ryan, who insists on interviewing his mother’s boyfriend for “the job of being my father” (“Two written references must be provided, one from kid,” reads the job description Ryan puts together). Whether good, bad, or indifferent, the feelings and outlooks of Avi’s young protagonists are deeply influenced by the men in their lives. Endings are not always happy or neat, but moments of discovery and recognition point the way to change. Avi’s deft incorporation of humor, heartache, and the occasional touch of the supernatural will draw readers in as they ponder how family ties bind in both positive and negative ways. Ages 10–up. Author’s agent: Gail Hochman, Brandt & Hochman. (Apr.)

From the Publisher

In this collection of seven heartfelt stories, the indefatigable Avi breathes new life into an old theme: the relationship between sons and fathers (and the occasional grandfather). Ranging in tone from the somber (“Departed”) to the sprightly (“Tighty-Whities or Boxers?”), the stories have in common a psychological acuity, the presence of inevitable change, and the grace of Avi's simile-rich style.
—Booklist (starred review)

Avi's septuplet of stories suggests that the best thing you can do for your son might just be to hope you've somehow given him the tools to evolve into an adult who will love and understand you on the other side. Though this is tuned to the XY frequency, don't discount it as a book for daughters who value such beautiful prose as "Now, snow drifting down, slowly, steadily, each flake the ghost of a leaf." What Oedipus didn't know about the intricacies of father/son kinship could fill a book—and has.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Avi’s deft incorporation of humor, heartache, and the occasional touch of the supernatural will draw readers in as they ponder how family ties bind in both positive and negative ways.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Seven short stories, some written in first person, some in third, offer glimpses into the lives of seven middle-school boys as they navigate complicated relationships with fathers and grandfathers...“What is the most important thing a father can do for his son?” The stories don’t directly answer the question, but they do show the consequences of a father’s absence, either physically or emotionally, and the varied ways boys find to compensate for the loss. “Be there,” the stories seem to say to fathers and grandfathers.
—The Horn Book

Together, these offerings weave a picture of the relationships that can develop between teenage boys and their fathers and grandfathers—or the lack thereof...readers who take a chance on this collection will be rewarded.
—School Library Journal

Avi offers a multifaceted view of the way boys and men relate to each other, painting neither a perfectly rosy nor dreadfully bleak picture, and he gives space for each character’s personality, making it clear that the relationships are weighted both with history and the boys’ and men’s temperaments. Few of the stories offer complete resolution, instead of- fering a snapshot of an ongoing and shifting connection.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Avi is a master of just about anything he writes, and this collection is superbly crafted and ideal for discussions.
—BookPage

Avi’s latest short story collection introduces the intricate, dynamic, and complicated relationships of sons, fathers, and grandfathers. Readers will find seven distinctive stories, each packed with varying and multifaceted levels of emotional intensity, humor, and personal discovery that invite further conversation.
—Literacy Daily

In true Avi form, in what his fans have come to expect, the stories are page turners. Each story keeps the reader glued to the book, curious to find out how the clever kids are going to come to terms with their experiences and carry on with their lives with a better understanding of who they are and what their family is all about.
—New York Journal of Books

Through these and other powerful stories, readers will emerge with a heightened awareness of what boys really need and identify with the struggles and voices of these seven distinct characters. Equally important for fathers as it is for sons, this is a must-read.
—Books to Borrow...Books to Buy (Kendal A. Rautzhan column)

School librarians would do well to include this in their lists for reluctant readers because of its large font, short stories, and because of the possibility of further discussion and interest.
—School Library Connection

School Library Journal

03/01/2016
Gr 4–6—In a collection of seven short stories, Avi brings to life the complicated relationships between fathers and sons, grandfathers and grandsons, and stepfathers and stepsons and explores those sons without a father figure at all. In one tale, a teenager is shipped off for a week with a grandfather he never met and who never speaks to his own son, only to find understanding and a new, albeit complicated, relationship. In another, a son arrives at his father's for the weekend only to discover that he has gained a new stepmother since his last visit. In a different story, a boy interviews his mother's boyfriend for the position of stepfather. Another selection highlights the complicated relationship between a son who struggles to connect with his father, whose interests are much different than his own. Avi also tackles the impact that the loss of a father can have on his young son, the emptiness that a boy who has never known his father feels, and a grandfather who lives with his son's family. The son or grandson in each entry is either a young teen or a boy on the edge of his teenage years, which adds to the poignancy and emotional ties. Together, these offerings weave a picture of the relationships that can develop between teenage boys and their fathers and grandfathers—or the lack thereof. The pieces could be read separately in a classroom setting. Though short stories can be a hard sell in a library setting, readers who take a chance on this collection will be rewarded. VERDICT Purchase where short story collections or realistic fiction featuring male characters is needed.—Carli Worthman, Carmel Middle School, Carmel, IN

Kirkus Reviews

★ 2016-01-20
Multiaward-winning author Avi asks as an epigraph, "What's the most important thing you can do for your son?" Through seven short stories, he examines the troubled, touching, fractured, burgeoning, and beautiful relationships of seven different young men and their fathers, grandfathers, and, on the periphery, their mothers. There's Paul, who begins to understand his distant father only after being forced into a weekend with an estranged (and strange) grandfather. There's the paranormal insistence of Luke's dead father on spending one last moment with his mourning son. There's the heartfelt involvement of Ryan in his mother's acceptance of a marriage proposal. But this isn't a collection of golden-delicious Norman Rockwell-style optimism. A macho father is ashamed of his passive son, a know-it-all annoying grandfather frustrates his grandson, and an absent father has abandoned his family completely. Avi's septuplet of stories suggests that the best thing you can do for your son might just be to hope you've somehow given him the tools to evolve into an adult who will love and understand you on the other side. Though this is tuned to the XY frequency, don't discount it as a book for daughters who value such beautiful prose as "Now, snow drifting down, slowly, steadily, each flake the ghost of a leaf." What Oedipus didn't know about the intricacies of father/son kinship could fill a book—and has. (Short stories. 10 & up)

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780763681111
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication date: 04/26/2016
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.90(d)
Lexile: HL560L (what's this?)
Age Range: 10 - 14 Years

Customer Reviews