Young Leo learns that being a hero isn’t about the accolades.
Leo’s English town is built on Roman ruins, and Roman history influences his imagination. Where in real life Leo feels insignificant, in his dreams he’s a heroic gladiator winning the approval of Jupiter. So when Warren, a schoolyard god of sorts, invites Leo to join him and his friends, Leo jumps at the chance. First he must prove his bravery and loyalty. The trials end badly, shaming Leo, especially when stalwart pup Jack Pepper gets hurt in the process. Leo’s guilt is compounded after he spins events so it sounds as though he rescued Jack—a story almost everyone in town believes. Tightly structured and plotted, the novel’s every element and development move the story forward. Leo narrates, allowing readers to fully experience his growing unease with his deception and alienation from family and friends. Leo seems to be digging himself into a hole when a meteor hits, opening a huge sinkhole in the middle of town that swallows Jack Pepper. In the process of recovering and restoring Jack to his neighbor and role model, Grizzly Allen, Leo learns heaps about honesty, friendship, dreams and real greatness.
A compelling, thought-provoking story about the fights and brave acts—big and small, acclaimed and unattributed—that define us. (Fiction. 9-12)