Over the course of four evocatively described seasons, Patrick must come to grips with his father’s intention to remarry, to a woman with a 7-year-old daughter, Claire, he views as a pest-y interloper.
Patrick’s mother has been dead for a while; he, his older brother and his dad have nearly adjusted to her absence. Patrick and his best friend, Harry, share lots of traditions that help fill any emotional void in the boy’s life. But after his dad announces his coming marriage, nothing feels right anymore. Patrick decides to build a treehouse that will give him room to stretch out—without Claire’s annoying presence. As he finishes up construction, he also begins to recognize that Claire is just as disturbed by their newly blended family as he is; only then can he reach out to her. Patrick’s first-person voice often sounds more authorial than childlike. He and Harry pretend to be abominable snowmen, “our arms stiffly at our sides, our faces menacing. We gnashed our teeth”; during a walk in the woods, “tree branches stretched like bony skeletons above our heads.” This disconnect diminishes an otherwise attractive exploration of a common problem.
In spite of flaws in the presentation, Patrick’s gradual adjustment to his new family may offer a satisfying road map for chapter-book readers dealing with similar situations. (Fiction. 7-9)