Life can be rough when your dad is at war. Derek knows.
Fifth grade is hard enough without landing in the principal’s office. It gets even harder when his best childhood friend becomes his chief tormentor. It was Budgie’s mom who found him at the bus stop one rainy morning and told him it was a Saturday, and the nickname “Saturday Boy” clings, along with every other classroom embarrassment. He just can’t seem to keep his head down. But Derek is armed with 91 letters from his dad. He knows just the one to pull out when he’s mad or sad or just missing his superhero sidekick. Debut author Fleming deftly balances the building tension of the wartime absence of Derek’s supportive father against the trials of being bullied at school. Through Derek’s first-person narration, readers are drawn to the likable boy, who reveals the tension caused by anxiety for a parent’s safety. To escape his troubles at school, Derek imagines heroic adventures with his dad and misses the clues to developments at home. While he is surrounded by loving and understanding adults, the focal point of his peer interactions is Budgie, who plays a large role in unmasking the pressures of a family living with the sacrifices of war.
Fleming wields a light touch with the story’s pacing and a steady hand for hard reality in this tender portrait of a boy under stress. (Fiction. 10-13)