Published by Katherine Tegen Books
Summary: Mason Buttle feels dogged by bad luck: not only is he the biggest, sweatiest kid in the 7th grade, but his mother died in a car accident a few years back, and more recently, his best friend Benny died when he fell out of their tree fort one night in the Buttle apple orchard. The orchard is falling into ruins, since Mason’s grandmother and uncle haven’t been able to work since his mom died. And the local police lieutenant keeps coming around to ask Mason uncomfortable questions about where he was the night Benny died. On the brighter side, there’s Calvin, the new kid in the neighborhood who becomes a friend and ally as the two try to dodge the local bullies after school. They discover a root cellar under Mason’s house, and fix it up as their secret hideaway. There’s also Moonie, the dog who belongs to one of the bullies, but who seems more attached to Mason. When Calvin goes missing, Mason finds himself under a cloud of suspicion; but not only does he find Calvin, he unwittingly uncovers the culprit responsible for Benny’s death. That discovery begins a chain of events that leads to happier circumstances for Mason and those he loves. 336 pages; grades 4-7.
Pros: Mason is a one-of-a-kind character, and his voice rings true as he finds his way through a difficult season of his 7th grade year. Not only does he manage to survive the hardships at school and at home, but he does so in a way that makes life better for those around him.
Cons: The book gets off to a slow start; the detailed parts about Calvin and Mason fixing up the root cellar dragged a bit. The reader will have to persevere to get to the second half where the action really picks up.