When 12-year-old Aidan Schroeckenbauer saves presidential candidate Bettina Brandon from a falling campaign sign and ends up the “Clarinet Hero,” he’s adopted by the campaign and hits the road.
Aidan brings good publicity, but it becomes a hard road when he endures attacks on his clarinet playing, his baseball prowess and even his age, as reporters say he might actually be older than 12, making him ineligible to play Little League. Even his mother, laid off from the local FreezeStar factory, has been accused of being a spy for a Chinese corporation. Partly a light satire on modern elections, Clark’s tale is mostly a fun romp, lightened by the contentious relationship between Aidan and Governor Brandon’s daughter Emma. Their often-humorous banter keeps the story on track as they become friends and learn to work together to keep the campaign rolling. Names of political figures and Brandon’s Fresh Idea Party are made up, and even the Democratic candidate is said to be a former Democratic vice president, Jack Mathias. (Though being fictional is just as well, since Aidan’s mother calls him an “out-of-touch idiot.”) Humorous dialogue, smart pacing and some dirty politics make for an engaging read.
With an election around the corner, this isn’t a bad way for young readers to view the political arena. (Fiction. 8-12)