Bo (short for Bogart) Whaley is a sixth grader at the dilapidated Young Oaks Elementary School on a military base in Reform, North Carolina. Bo reminds me of so many of the boys I have taught (not to mention the two I live with)- he is irrepressible, energetic, and funny, all great characteristics when one gets out into the world, but also characteristics that don't always work in the school setting. Unfortunately, Bo's father is the base commander, which means the spot light is often on Bo. Bo's dad wants his son to behave himself and stay out of trouble.
At the beginning of the book, Bo's 12-year-old cousin, Gari, comes across the country to live with Bo and his family, because her mother has been deployed to Iraq. Gari misses her mother and her old life desperately. She is not in North Carolina long before she comes up with a plan so that her mother will have to return.
The school and military base are strait-laced and conventional, but the new sixth grade teacher, Ms. Loupe, is neither. Ms. Loupe is an actress who uses improvisational theater to engage her students. Her creative, high energy style is perfect for Bo, and he is soon in the midst of his best year ever. Then the unthinkable happens. Ms. Loupe's brother, serving in the military in Afghanistan, is injured, and the sixth grade class bands together in a campaign to raise funds for injured soldiers.
I loved the gritty reality of this book. A school that is falling down. A librarian who curses by shouting out book titles (I am so going to try this!). Kids who are less than perfect. Cousins who fight as much as they get along. A girl that tries to solve a problem in a way that could end very badly but doesn't. And mostly, kids who band together to do something good in their world…
A great read!