Published by Balzer + Bray
Summary: Wade is crushed when his grandmother’s fall means he has to spend his summer at the rec center. His hard-working parents are taking double shifts to try to buy their own house, and they need easy, affordable care for their son. Wade is an introvert who hates spending the day running around with the other kids. One day, he wanders next door to an abandoned church that immediately sparks his imagination. When he discovers a girl, Jolene, who’s trying to grow papaya plants there, the two must figure out a way to share the lot. They slowly get to know each other and eventually form a tentative friendship while trying to figure out how to keep their secret kingdom away from developers. When Wade’s artist uncle gives him a movie camera, Wade discovers a hidden talent that may also be the key to saving the church. While he wishes at the beginning of the summer to be “normal”, by the end, he has come to appreciate his own unique gifts that he uses to help himself and his new friend. 320 pages; grades 4-7.
Pros: Introverts and sensitive artist types will make a connection with Wade as he slowly comes to appreciate his empathy, artistic tendencies, and enjoyment of his own company. The various parts of the story all came together in a very satisfying conclusion.
Cons: I didn’t really start enjoying this book until I was about halfway through it. Kids may not have the persistence to get through the somewhat slow beginning.