(2) 4-6 At school Marty keeps a low profile to conceal the difficulties of his home life: a single mother who hoards and who lives with agoraphobia. Gracie comes from the prosperous side of the tracks but has challenges of her own: a busy, neglectful single dad and hearing loss. On the plus side, Marty has a warm, eccentric grandfather who gardens and encourages Marty's dream to one day visit the Eiffel Tower, and Gracie has a full complement of confidence. They also, increasingly in this story of a growing friendship, have each other. Just when readers think they know what familiar middle-grade-fictional territory they are in, Welsh writer Lewis throws a curveball toward magical realism and tall tale. The seed that kindly Grandad gave Marty for his birthday grows into a gigantic pumpkin, and Grandad decides to turn it into a boat and sail with Marty and Gracie to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower. The narrative tension switches from that of unreliable parents and school bullies to ­pumpkin-craft-threatening waves in the English Channel. With lots of help from a supportive community, the three succeed in their odyssey and the theme of following your dream (no matter how loopy) is made concrete. The two modes of storytelling don't entirely mesh, but the total effect is immensely likable.


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