HOW TO AVOID EXTINCTION
"Acampora tucks laughter, tears, light doses of life wisdom, impressive fossils, and any number of appealing characters into this amiable odyssey." — BOOKLIST
"The transformative power of the American road trip is taken to new heights..." -- SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL
"Some of the chapter headings are funny enough to convince people to read the book all by themselves...: -- Kirkus Reviews
"Love plus laughter is pretty much an extinction-proof formula for a middle-grade book, and jokesters, dinosaur fans, and those looking for a satisfyingly hopeful family drama will find plenty to dig up and enjoy here."
-- BULLETIN FOR THE CENTER OF CHILDREN’S BOOKS
SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL
The transformative power of the American road trip is taken to new heights through the skillful pen of Acampora in this fast-paced family story full of humor and heart. Thirteen-year-old Leo and his overworked mom, his feisty grandmother, and his 17-year-old cousin Abbey are all still grieving the death of Leo’s beloved grandfather almost a year earlier. Compelled to make the trip she had planned with her husband, Gram determinedly sets off from Allentown, PA, on an end-ofsummer cross-country journey in a 1973 Buick with doughnuts in hand, teens in tow, and Abbey’s trusty old golden retriever sprawled in the backseat. Heading for the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry in Utah via a stop at the Field Museum in Chicago, Leo and Abbey learn about natural history, family history, and each other at every turn. Joining them for the adventure (and a ride to her home in Nebraska) is aspiring paleontologist Honey Buenafe, whose instant bond with the family assists with their healing process. There’s no lack of liveliness or bumps in the road, including a bear encounter, an emergency trip to the veterinarian, and a runaway Gram. VERDICT A cast of memorable characters, intelligent banter, and wry humor reminiscent of Richard Peck or Gary Paulsen make this an authentic and unforgettable journey.–Madeline J. Bryant, Los Angeles Public Library
A screwball comedy sends Leo, his older cousin, Abbey, his grandmother, and a golden retriever across the country in a 1973 Buick Electra.
Some of the chapter headings are funny enough to convince people to read the book all by themselves—who could pass up “We All Look Like Chickens to God”? The writing in the book doesn’t always live up to the headings, but every few pages, there’s a sentence that’s so on-the-nose it’s both beautiful and revelatory, as in, “ ‘I haven’t figured it out yet’ is not a bad life philosophy.” Leo’s widowed grandmother has run off to Utah to see allosaurs. Initially, Leo, Abbey, and the dog are with her, but she ditches them in Nebraska, leaving them to chase after her. Leo and his family are white, but they befriend a Filipina-American museum worker named Honey, possibly the book’s best character. She’s posted a sign that reads, in part: “Hi! The tattoos, which cover my entire back, shoulders, and upper arms, are traditional Filipino tribal designs. It did hurt. My parents don’t mind.” Her joining the quest just makes the book better. Some of the dialogue is too sitcom-y to be believable, but it’s largely balanced out.
Late in the book, a character sums up the plot by saying, “That’s the key to happiness….Join the right circus.” Despite some flaws, this book is the right circus. (Fiction. 8-12)
BULLETIN FOR THE CENTER OF CHILDREN’S BOOKS
It’s nearly been a year since Pop’s death, but Leo and his family are still feeling the loss of his grandfather. Gram seeks to throw off the fog of sadness that’s settled over the house, however, so she plans a road trip to the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry in Utah, a place she and her husband had planned to go before he passed. In a 1973 Buick Electra, she and Abbey, aspiring paleontologist and Leo’s older cousin, head out and bring practical Leo along on their trip. He may be stuck in the backseat with Abbey’s gassy old dog, Kermit, but he’s crossing the country, seeing the sights, and learning some much desired information about his absent father. There’s little tension in the story but there’s plenty of tenderness and affection, and the characters all find ways to deal with their grief (not only over Pop, but eventually over Kermit) and create their path forward with joy and optimism. The small moments between Leo and his grandmother make for some real tearjerkers, but a road trip story with a batty old grandmother and a flatulent dog is inherently humorous, and this one serves up witty jokes in spades, in the vein of other road-trips-with-old-ladies books such as Bauer’s Rules of the Road (BCCB 2/98) and Gantos’ From Norvelt to Nowhere (BCCB 10/13). Love plus laughter is pretty much an extinction-proof formula for a middle-grade book, and jokesters, dinosaur fans, and those looking for a satisfyingly hopeful family drama will find plenty to dig up and enjoy here. – Kate Quealy Gainer, Assistant Editor BCCB
An impromptu road trip leads to new friendships, the start of healing for a family deeply wounded by the death of its patriarch, and dinosaurs, of course. When widowed Gram suddenly decides to set out on a memorial cross-country drive to see Allosaurus fossils at a Utah dig, she sweeps Leo; his teenage caregiver, Abbey; and Abbey’s golden retriever, Kermit the dog, along in her wake—but leaves Leo’s controlling single mom behind. The trip is highlighted by encounters with a mother grizzly and with Honey, a dazzling Filipino American grad student with tats and a pilot’s license, but it turns into a chase when Grandma tries to strand her passengers in Nebraska, and finally culminates with life-altering experiences for all, including Leo’s mother and (alas) the dog. Acampora tucks laughter, tears, light doses of life wisdom, impressive fossils, and any number of appealing characters into this amiable odyssey. — John Peters