Eight-year-old Iva Honeycutt dreams of being a discoverer—and she’s sure her great-grandfather Ludwell’s treasure map, if not her unreliable dog Sweetlips, will help make that wish come true.
Iva considers herself to be “interesting, different”—even by the standards of Uncertain, Va., and its eccentric cast of characters, from taxidermist and tax man Mr. Priddy to her mouth-breathing cousin Heaven. Iva can’t stand Heaven—she tattles, prays out loud and even steals her best friend. Iva’s evolving relationship with this long-dreaded cousin and her obsession with finding the gold General Braddock buried during the French and Indian War propel the pleasantly rambling story, but the real treasure here is the fresh, quirky characterization of Iva and the comical reflection of a Southern family that embraces Johnny Cash, Korea, and streaking… and that’s just at breakfast. Though crayon colors are contemporary, the excessively applied figurative language feels old-fashioned, with expressions like “one red cent” and “hotter than smoke from a locomotive.” Expressions like “marks” (vs. grades) and “a fat lot” even add a curiously English flair to the goings-on. Ross’ expressive, cartoonish black-and-white sketches are just goofy enough to fit the story’s exuberance.
A breezy, wide-open window into the turbulent heart of a dramatic third-grade adventurer and her small-town Virginia community. (Fiction. 9-11)