A sudden change in vacation plans leads to an unforgettable summer for 11-year-old Cat and her younger brother, Chicken, who has special needs.
Cat and Chicken are the namesakes of characters in their mother’s picture-book series, Caterpillar & Chicken. In the books, Cat looks out for Chicken and does everything she can to make him happy. This is true in real life as well: Chicken has special needs (undefined, but he is sensitive to noise and touch, has difficulty governing himself, and has a tendency toward fixations), and Cat is responsible for taking care of him while their mother works. Cat and Chicken are biracial; their mother is white and their late father was black. Cat can’t wait to visit her best friend, Rishi, in Atlanta during summer vacation. But when Rishi’s parents are suddenly needed in India, Cat and Chicken find themselves staying on Gingerbread Island, North Carolina, with their mother’s parents—grandparents they’ve never met before. Cat’s mother is tight-lipped about why she’s estranged from her parents, but Cat is determined to protect Chicken, like she always does. The poignant story of Cat’s unexpected adventures on Gingerbread Island is told with tenderness and a keen sense of what can make—and break—family bonds. While race isn’t central to the story, it’s also not incidental. Through debut author McDunn’s vivid storytelling, issues related to race and bias are deftly woven into the larger narrative.
An engrossing, heartwarming, beautifully written debut about building and rebuilding family ties. (Fiction. 8-13)