cover image Pay Attention, Carter Jones

Pay Attention, Carter Jones

Gary D. Schmidt. Clarion, $16.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-544-79085-8

Schmidt (Orbiting Jupiter) fuses pathos and humor in this adroitly layered novel that opens as Carter answers the doorbell to find a dapper British “gentleman’s gentleman,” a former employee of the boy’s grandfather, whose will bequeathed his service to Carter’s family. And they do need some sorting out: the sixth grader’s father has been deployed to Germany, and his emotionally fraught mother is struggling to parent her four children alone in New York State. Endearingly devoted to his younger sisters, Carter is reeling from his beloved brother’s sudden death, his alienation from his uncommunicative father (hauntingly underscored in flashbacks to an angst-riddled camping trip), and the sickening realization that his father isn’t coming home. The butler’s strict adherence to decorum and the Queen’s English triggers amusing repartee with slang-loving Carter; he also recognizes and assuages the boy’s pain by introducing him—and his schoolmates—to cricket, which gives them all a sense of purpose and pride. Opening each chapter with a definition of a cricket term, Schmidt weaves the sport’s jargon into the narrative, further enriching the verbal badinage and reinforcing the affecting bond between a hurting boy and a compassionate man. Ages 10–12. [em](Feb.) [/em]