Derby Clark, her little brother, Triple and her father, Garland are really lucky. The three of them share food, fun and family in their Rambler RV that takes them into the wilds of Wisconsin around Thanksgiving time so they can sell Christmas trees and then sends them racing back to Virginia to set up the Grill so they can sell cheeseburgers outside the Rockhoppers baseball stadium.
Their lives are filled with traditions. As they drive down the road, they spot the old drive in theater, the general store with giant concrete planters and know they are almost there. Garland parks the Rambler in the parking lot and unhooks the Grill right there in the shadow of the stadium. That's where they will spend the summer.
One of Derby's favorite moments is when she meets up with June Mattingly for lemonade and strawberries and sometimes cookies. This is where Derby becomes Sugar Sue. But it turns out things aren't quite the same this summer. Something has changed in June's world. Her husband, Franklin, died over the holidays and now her house is overrun with weeds and the heat hangs inside her house making baking cookies impossible.
Derby's big heart can't bear to see June struggling and she hatches a plan to help. It's going to take the whole village to pull this off but Derby believes it's got to be done.
Turns out there are special people in our lives who do everyday things and make all the difference in the world. When June and her husband, Franklin, dance together on the infield at the fifth inning break, everyone's life gets a little brighter. It won't make the papers but it is a tradition the fans in the stands can count on to make them smile. These things matter as much as weddings and funerals.
We all need things we can count on in life. One of the things we can count on is change and Derby knows about change. She still feels the loss of her mother. It's just the two of them in the Rambler now. June's life has had a big change too with the loss of Franklin. Where will the little things you can count on come from now?
This is a story about loss, the little pieces and the feelings that hold us close to others and to ourselves. Everyone has loss whether its a turtle race, a child, a mother, a wife or a husband. Things don't stand still.
We need to feel knitted together inside and outside. This author sees the world and its little moments and she uses her powers of observation to paint that picture of our inner world and all the action that takes place inside as we respond to the outside. Some books are about leaping from tall buildings or underwear. This one is about warming your insides even when it feels like all the stuffing has fallen out. It hop scotches along without a lot of mulling and lingering in despair. Derby takes life as it comes, acts and doesn't sit for a long time in the what ifs. She's always ready for what's coming and she expects it to be good stuff.
209 pages 978-0544602014 Ages 9-12 Pacing: Moderate
Plot: Character Growth
Recommended by: Barb Langridge, abookandahug.com
"Garland, Derby, and Triple Clark spend each season traveling highways and byways in their Rambler—until summer, when small-town Ridge Creek, Virginia, calls them back. There they settle in, selling burgers and fries out of Garland’s Grill after each game the Rockskippers play in their battered minor-league baseball stadium. Derby’s summer traditions bring her closer than she’s ever been to a real home that isn’t on wheels, but this time, her return to Ridge Creek reveals unwelcome news. Now the person Derby loves most in town needs her help—and yet finding a way to do so may uncover deeply held stories and secrets.
Told in Derby’s unforgettable voice, this warm-hearted debut novel is about taking risks, planting roots, and discovering the true definition of home."--from the publisher