Owen’s loving relationship with his grandfather Neville is moving in an unexpected and unwelcome direction.
Neville has decided that he should send back to Iceland the medal that his now-deceased friend received for his sensitive translation of the works of Icelandic-Canadian farmer/poet Stephan G. Stephansson. He makes a spur-of-the-moment decision to travel—immediately—to Iceland, and Owen willingly comes along. The trouble is that Neville is becoming increasingly confused (to the extent that readers may find it surprising that Owen’s parents left the eighth-grader in his care). Owen has a good reason to accompany Neville on the trip: his grandfather accidentally sent Owen’s notebook there, and its contents are something the white boy doesn’t ever want anyone to see. The reason for his need for secrecy isn’t finally revealed until the conclusion of this gentle novel of love, loss, and self-fulfillment, all intertwining in Owen’s life. Owen initially rationalizes both Neville’s frequent missteps and his own character flaw, but it all finally becomes impossible to ignore. The present-tense, third-person narrative primarily focuses on Owen’s point of view, permitting a believable and nuanced exploration of his emerging self-awareness. Owen, Neville, and Owen’s dead but much-missed grandmother Aileen are fully realized characters. Even the (real) poet Stephansson emerges from the pages of this quiet tale.
A tender and affecting coming-of age story. (Fiction. 10-14)