The summer after her parents’ divorce is a tough one for Lexie. For the first time in her ten years, she’s spending her annual summer vacation at the Jersey Shore without her mom. Although she looks forward to having some quality time with her dad, everything just feels strange. No one sneezes when they first open up the beach house, like her mom always did. The place isn’t as clean as it usually is, the food is different, and some of the furniture is in the wrong place. And when her dad surprises her with the news that his new girlfriend, Vicky, and her two sons, fourteen-year-old Ben and three-year-old Harris will be joining them for the week, things get even stranger. Three new people will disrupt their established beach routine. There are plenty of awkward moments during their week together, but also some joyful ones, as Lexie finds ways to bond with both boys and gets to know Vicky – and her father – just a little better.
What’s unusual about this short chapter book is the author’s ability to create a good solid story that’s accessible to third graders with more complex characters than we typically see at this level. Even little Harris – a toddler who wants to be a truck – seems like a real person. Lexie’s emotions are realistic for a child experiencing the sorts of upheaval her family is going through, but the story doesn’t dwell on them or turn one of the guests into the bad guy. There is plenty of humor, too, and that makes it hard for Lexie to stay angry for very long. Lexie is not only a great summer read, it’s also one of the best children’s novels to date about adjusting to the big changes that happen in lots of families.
Books can serve as a way to talk to your child about a topic that’s not always easy to discuss, such as divorce. The kind of family changes Lexie is experiencing will be familiar to lots of kids, and can even open a door to good parent/child discussion, just by posing simple, open-ended questions like: What’s the same? What’s different? Keep in mind that your child’s situation doesn’t need to match the character’s life exactly in order to ring true. In fact, with situations that are likely to be emotional for your child, a little distance from reality can be a good thing.
Reviewed by KTH.
THEMES: FAMILY LIFE. PARENT AND CHILD. VISITORS. BEACHES.
Random House Books for Young Readers, 2011
Suggested Ages: 7-9