Review Detail

Middle Grade Fiction 522
Friends are there for you
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
What worked:
This story reminds me a bit of another book I’ve recently read, “The Great Texas Dragon Race”, with its own differences. Clara is a fearless young girl and has an innate passion for heights. The plot’s hook in the opening pages finds her stranded in a plastic lawn chair, suspended under gas-filled balloons, drifting in the sky toward Lake Michigan. This event leads to her immediate, worldwide fame in newspapers and media which draws the attention of the organizer of a balloon race around the world. Clara manages to get into the race and hopes to convince her father that they shouldn’t leave their farm and move to Chicago. A big twist in the plot is the fact that her daring stunts led to the death of her mother one year before so her father is now overprotective of Clara’s safety.
Clara ends up as the “copilot” for a crotchety, 80+year-old woman named Gildersleeve who’s been in this race longer than many competitors have been alive. Her actual copilots are three monkeys named Mayhem, Houdini, and Bob with entertaining personalities and talents. They’re able to swiftly maneuver through the balloon’s riggings and they even man the helm, keeping the ship on course. The monkey named Bob gets a hostile attitude when he’s insulted, which is exactly what Clara’s father does. These monkeys prove to be skilled navigators and add unpredictable drama and amusing moments to the plot.
The author presents a range of characters that antagonize and comfort Clara. Clara becomes this year’s Face of the Race so last year’s personality, Ophelia, takes an instant dislike to her. Ophelia oozes superior airs toward everyone and she demeans Clara at every opportunity. The youngest competitor is Hatsu, a sugar-loving co-pilot with Team Ussuri who also has a deep adoration for Clara. Other co-pilots Clara’s age become friends but her main antagonist is an old pilot named Godfrey Sway. Clara knows the man has a past, secret history with Gildersleeve but she can’t understand the hatred and malice he has toward her pilot. Clara quickly figures out this man will do anything to become the 100th winner of this legendary balloon race.
What didn’t work as well:
The plot follows Clara’s character all the way through so other characters aren’t as fully developed. It would be nice to know more about Hatsu specifically since she’s Clara’s most inspired supporter. The story is still very entertaining and presume a sequel will provide deeper character development.
The Final Verdict:
Readers are quickly immersed in Clara’s need to escape the shroud of her father’s protection and live a more exciting life of her own making. Different parent-child relationships are part of the story and add different perspectives on family issues. Overall, this book shares a thrilling adventure and I recommend you give it a shot.
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