To rescue his father from prison, 11-year-old Oliver “Spaghetti-O” Jones tries to get a little help from his favorite luchador.
After months of legal woes, Oliver’s father ends up in a Florida correctional center despite his assurances to Oliver and his irritable big sister, Louisa, that “[e]verything was going to be fine.” Now Louisa won’t even talk to their father, but Oliver’s not giving up that easily. Inspired by his favorite luchador-turned–action hero, Tito the Bonecrusher (motto: “Never quit trying!”), Oliver needs to concoct a plan to bust his father out of prison. To do so, he must infiltrate a charity gala to meet the bombastic action star, who holds the know-how required for such a daring caper. Thomson’s excellent middle-grade debut plumbs the absurdity and desperation inherent in a painful situation. Throughout the ordeal, Oliver battles and suppresses his grief and pain in a way that younger readers can recognize and perhaps understand amid the humor; more than anything, it’s this implicit focus that makes this novel a great one. Going along for the tumultuous ride is Oliver’s best friend, Brain (a girl genius), and some unexpected allies. Each scheme (celebrity photos with forged signatures, skipping detention via a decoy) seems more outrageous than the last, but when the day of the gala arrives, will Oliver have what it takes to save the day? A white default is assumed.
An uplifting gem. (Fiction. 8-11)