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Monday, February 4, 2019

Pay Attention Carter Jones by Gary D Schmidt (*Amazon)

Pay Attention, Carter Jones

Pay Attention Carter Jones
written by Gary D Schmidt
224 Pages
ISBN 10: 0544790855
ISBN 13: 978-0544790858
Published by Clarion Books
February 2019

*Newbery Honor Winner
*National Book Award Finalist
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 You are gonna love Gary Schmidt's
21st Century male version of Mary Poppins...umbrella and all. 
He speaks the Queens English --
and he insists on proper decorum at all times. 
Meet Carter Jones' new Butler -- or "gentlemen's gentlemen"as he would say. 

My Review:

Do you know the game of cricket? You will after reading Pay Attention Carter Jones. Each chapter heading is decorated with a word associated with cricket. It is printed in an attractive, italicized font, that while a bit difficult for older readers, youngsters will have no problem. It was a creative way to include definitions and complicated rules without muttering-up the story. For example, if I say, "bunny," you picture a cute, flop-eared, animal. Right? Wrong. "A Bunny is an unskilled batsman - who consequently appears as a rabbit caught in headlights." I appreciated the extra effort to familiarize readers with a game many readers know nothing about. But then the author included page after page of cricket into the body of the story. A wicket, true ticket, sticky wicket. Ugh! It is a swampy-mess readers must slog through to get to the heart of the story. In the midst of all the cricket there is a well-written, witty, deeply moving narrative told through the eyes of young master Jones.

The story opens on what appears to be a disastrous first day of school. Everything is going wrong in the Jones house when there's a knock at the door. Standing in the pouring rain with an umbrella as big as a satellite dish is a man dressed in a "funeral suit" and wearing a bowler. The sixth-grader thinks to himself 'no one has worn a bowler since the horse and buggy days.' After several attempts to shoo the man away and with his Mom "going crazy," Carter accepts his offer of help. We see immediately the cultural divide the butler intends to bridge. From the way he speaks -- using the "Queens English," to his proper manners, and his love of cricket. All will be introduced to the Jones family and through them to the entire middle school. 

Carter learned that the Butler had worked for his Grandfather for many years. He made arrangements that upon his passing, the Butler's services would be provided to the Jones' family. So Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick and his huge, purple, "eggplant-looking," Bentley were here to stay. With his father on yet another deployment, his Mother definitely needed the help. The story is told from Cater's sixth-grade perspective. This gives the reader insight into his feelings and how kids react to grown-up problems. Because there's a deeper story going on inside Carter. He's dealing with his father's absence and a secret he's been keeping since their last camping trip together. 

Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick is a delightful character that fills a void in the Jones family. Not just the absence of a father figure for the children, or a help-mate for the mother, but a deeper, more meaningful role that eases the family forward without Mr. Jones. This is a quick read. (I read it in about two hours.) It is well-written and thoroughly entertaining. Middle-schoolers will enjoy the dialogue and lunch-time shenanigans. There is a heartfelt story hiding amid all the cricket. If you can get through it, you will love this book. It's worth it.

Happy Reading, 


Pay Attention, Carter Jones
*Thank you to Amazon for providing courtesy ARC in exchange for my honest, unbiased opinion.


Pay Attention, Carter Jones

Bestselling author Gary D. Schmidt tells a coming-of-age story with the light touch of The Wednesday Wars, the heart of Okay for Now, and the unique presence of a wise and witty butler.

Carter Jones is astonished early one morning when he finds a real English butler, bowler hat and all, on the doorstep—one who stays to help the Jones family, which is a little bit broken.

In addition to figuring out middle school, Carter has to adjust to the unwelcome presence of this new know-it-all adult in his life and navigate the butler's notions of decorum. And ultimately, when his burden of grief and anger from the past can no longer be ignored, Carter learns that a burden becomes lighter when it is shared.

Sparkling with humor, this insightful and compassionate story will resonate with readers who have confronted secrets of their own.

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