Through the observant lens of young Kay, Bradbury chronicles a family road trip (and a curious cricket who tags along) with evocative tenderness, enlivened by Joey Sotelo's delightful illustrations. A displeased Kay thinks it’s unfair she can't sit in the front of the car as her family makes their way from Colorado to Iowa to visit her grandmother. Careening across the Midwest, they leave behind the Rocky Mountains, take in the prairies, stop at their favorite burger stand, and cross the mile-wide Missouri river while singing “Over the River and Through the Woods.” (Sheet music is included.) Kay enjoys her grandmother's fried chicken at supper once they arrive and visits her grandfather's café for vanilla sundaes ("with chocolate sauce and a cherry on top"). When it’s finally time to head home, a wistful Kay reminisces while clutching a special souvenir from her grandmother.
In depicting Kay's developing awareness, Bradbury draws on her love for road trips and her twenty-year experience in special education. She affords Kay both hope and individualism, giving her room to resolve some complex feelings. Sotelo's sketches are consistent in character portrayals and scene continuities—they're pleasing and build the atmospheric energy necessary to keep readers invested. (It’s raining, for example, when Kay tears up on her trip back home). Readers will particularly enjoy the vivid and rich countryside details, the intriguing specifics of grandmother’s attic, the incidental glimpses at family dynamics (“Sue always gets to sit up front because she is the biggest”), and the clever touch of the cricket, too, visiting with its Iowa brethren, singing away with local crickets while the family eats.
Bradbury pulls at the heartstrings with an emphasis on domestic routines and the cherished bond between a youngster and a grandparent, maintaining a deft emotional momentum. Some sentences are flat or a touch wordy, but this wholesome picture book's accessible vocabulary, geographical elements, and big heart will surely engage young readers.
Takeaway: A charming bedtime read about a family's road trip across the country.
Great for fans of: Roger Eschbacher’s Road Trip, Cynthia Rylant and Stephen Gammell’s The Relatives Came, Natasha Wing and Julie Durrell’s The Night Before Summer Vacation.
Production grades Cover: A Design and typography: B+ Illustrations: A Editing: A- Marketing copy: A-