12-year-old Derek Fallon, like many kids, can’t wait for summer vacation. However, there is one wrinkle: he has to read three books before school begins again. Even though Derek is labelled a reluctant reader, that’s not really true. He enjoys reading, as long as the material is along the lines of Calvin & Hobbes. And there are other more important things to do: like hanging out with his best friend, Matt, and cooking up schemes that his parents do not exactly appreciate. So, Derek is devastated when his mother determines that her son would benefit from attending Learning Camp.
But Derek’s focus changes when he discovers a ten-year-old newspaper clipping in the attic. The article describes the death of a babysitter who, while saving her two-year-old charge, was caught in a riptide on a beach on Martha’s Vineyard. When he asks about the story, Derek learns that he was the little boy. With mixed feelings, he does some research, and hatches a plan to convince his parents to take a vacation there. When the family arrives on the island, they are surprised to learn the truth of what happened that fateful day–relieving not only Derek but his parents from the guilt that has been part of their lives.
Told with a perfect combination of humor and sensitivity, Derek’s story is complemented by his amusing drawings (penned by the author’s teenage son, Jake Tashjian) illustrating the meanings of vocabulary words.
Janet Tashjian’s gem is sure to be a favorite with kids, especially if, like the hero of the story, reading isn’t their thing. Derek is likable, smart, and creative. A word of caution: even if a kid isn’t a reader, he or she might become one after reading Derek’s tale. (Great news: his adventures continue in My Life as a Stuntboy and My Life as a Cartoonist!)