128 pages; published January 2013
Ben’s father drags him away on a last-minute road trip on the first day of summer vacation. The mission: to pick up a border collie in need of rescue. The other mission: to get father and son to face what has been driving them apart. As their trip expands to include a random mish-mash of interesting characters, Ben and his dad both have the chance to face up to what is changing in their lives. Through it all, their dog, Atticus, keeps a close eye on them and shares his wise observations about these humans he has to keep in line.
Atticus is a 15-year-old border collie who has done an excellent job of managing his family – Ben (the boy), his Dad (the boss) and his Mom. But today – the first day of Ben’s summer vacation – Atticus is on high alert. He’s been dragged into the truck between Ben and Dad who are off on an unplanned trip to pick up a rescue puppy. As if this family needs a dog. Atticus doesn’t want a dog, of all things. Dogs are messy and needy. But Atticus has no choice but to go along, because he can see that something is wrong. The boss and the boy aren’t really getting along. The boy doesn’t know why the boss has been gone so much lately and the boss doesn’t seem to be able to find the right words to make him understand.
Then, they keep inviting other people along on the ride – the boy who smells like smoke, the man who smells like grease, and the girl who smells like pancakes and bacon. There’s a lot of people and some strange things going on, but Atticus is just to dog to sniff out what’s right and what’s wrong as the Road Trip really takes off.
This slim offering is a joint venture between the author of the deeply beloved Hatchet and his son. It is good, clean fun for middle grade readers looking for something that really moves along, especially readers who enjoy animals. The chapters written in the voice of Atticus, the border collie, add the perfect touch to the story.