In this middle-grade novel, a bookish young girl finds herself plagued with anxiety when her troublemaking grandfather decides to build the world’s smallest passenger plane.
Twelve-year-old Winsley Walker is constantly worrying about her family’s zany antics, which are infamous in the small town of Cross Lanes, West Virginia. Her younger brother, Billy, is constantly getting into mischief at school, and her grandparents, who live next door, don’t exactly provide a calming influence. Her Gramps is the kind of person who drives a flashy turquoise Thunderbird and steals rosebushes from the local cemetery for a Mother’s Day present; after all, “Don’t reckon dead bodies out at Our Eternal Life are going to be getting a whiff of anything, except their own stinkin’ decaying bodies.” By contrast, Winsley prefers to spend her days quietly plowing through piles of books from the local mobile library. When a “You Can Build Anything” catalog arrives in the mail, Gramps determines to build the world’s smallest passenger plane and use it to finally achieve fame and fortune. Winsley develops an anxiety-induced twitch at the thought; she’s willing to do almost anything to thwart his plans so that the whole family doesn’t get kicked out of West Virginia. Debut author Craddock, drawing from her own childhood memories, brings to life a colorful and quirky cast of characters: Stubborn dreamer Gramps and tough, moonshine-swilling Granny are both family members whom many an adventurous child would love to have next door. It’s a shame that the least likable and interesting of the bunch is Winsley herself. Her devotion to respectability and responsibility is so total that she feels less like a preteen girl and more like a wet blanket. At one point she even goes so far as to turn away a delivery of plane-building supplies by telling the deliveryman that Gramps died from choking on a chicken bone. Fortunately, the supporting characters provide enough fun to compensate for her excessive seriousness and help the novel reach a thoroughly satisfying conclusion.
A fun, fast-paced read that will please zany young readers.