A move from lumber camp into town only adds new hazards to older ones for a loose-lipped young, white Michigander and his recently divorced mom.
As in My Near-Death Adventures (99% True!) (2015), DeCamp tells two stories simultaneously—because, as one of the most clueless narrators ever, 11-year-old Stanley Slater constructs a personal reality at odds with what’s actually going on around him. On the one hand, he’s absorbed with the trials of keeping a laid-up neighbor’s motor-mouthed 7-year-old son alive and reasonably clean, defending himself from his scary cousin Geri and schoolmate Mad Madge, and preventing his mother from marrying rich but hateful suitor Archibald Crutchley. And then there’s his long-absent, thoroughly idealized father. Beneath these surface events, though, are telling glimpses of more complex doings: his mom is pulled between the safety marriage to Crutchley would bring and her love for steady-minded lumberjack Stinky Pete; Geri barely pulls through a serious illness; and Stan’s dad turns out to be a charming but thoroughly rotten egg. Stan’s utter inability to keep from blurting out his frank opinions was funny in the previous episode but seems overused here. Still, it makes for plenty of comical exchanges, and along with adding historical atmosphere, the sheaves of actual 19th-century advertisements and photos he collects and annotates further lighten the tone.
A high-energy romp, occasionally a bit labored but still chock-full of hilarity. (Historical fiction. 10-12)