The SideRoad Kids: Tales from Chippewa County

The SideRoad Kids: Tales from Chippewa County
Age Range
Release Date
September 01, 2021
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The SideRoad Kids follows a group of boys and girls as they enter the sixth grade in a small town in Michigan's Upper Peninsula during 1957 - 58. This meandering collection of loosely-connected short stories is often humorous, poignant, and sometimes mysterious. Laugh as the kids argue over Halloween treats handed out in Brimley. Recall Dorothy's Hamburgers in Sault Ste. Marie. Follow a Sugar Island snowshoe trail as the kids look for Christmas trees. Wonder what strange blue smoke at Dollar Settlement signifies. Discover the magic hidden in April snowflakes. Although told by the kids, adults will remember their own childhood as they read about Flint, Candy, Squeaky, Katie, and their friends.

Editor review

1 review
Nostaglic lessons for life.
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
What worked:
This collection of short stories will be quite different for today’s young readers. They all reflect the simpler life of growing up in the Upper Peninsula of rural Michigan during the late 1950s. There’s an absence of technology, a range of economic backgrounds, a difference in behavioral expectations, and a variety of family situations. The kids get around by walking, riding bikes or horses, and sitting in the bed of a truck. Most of the characters’ parents are farmers, and a couple of the kids will be spending the summer helping relatives with various farming chores. The teachers openly share their thoughts regarding God and patriotism, and paddling is part of the school discipline. The setting is a stark contrast to suburban life today.
The stories are composed of only a few pages, so the book moves along at a good pace. There doesn’t seem to be a pattern to the story topics, although they progress chronologically throughout the school year. The kids relate everyday events like school activities, visiting with friends, a birthday party, the birth of a calf, and choosing a Christmas tree. Many of the tales are accompanied by lessons learned, such as honesty, appreciating what you have, and accepting our differences. The sixth-graders begin to explore becoming boyfriends and girlfriends, and the author shares the emotional highs and lows of their experiences.
The characters express their views on a variety of heavy issues, and their beliefs in God and faith are repeated throughout the book. The kids ponder the existence of heaven since they have relatives who’ve died in the past. They even consider the possibility of animal heaven, since the death of farm animals is not unusual. Some characters strongly believe in God, while some of the kids speak of God in less reverent terms. One boy is a Chippewa Indian, and he provides information about his heritage and its history. A girl suffers from a club foot, and she shares the mixed reactions she receives from others and how it affects her feelings. A couple of kids have single parents for different reasons, and one boy shares his guilt and hurt emotions after his mother’s recent departure. The short-story format creates an appropriate venue to explore the wide collection of issues.
What didn’t work as well:
The chapters are told in first-person, but the opening paragraphs of some chapters don’t always identify which characters will be the focus. The kids connected to first-person pronouns may require inferences. Readers can figure them out as the chapters move along, but it’s a distraction to leave it vague at the start. It’s not a huge issue, but it’s unclear why it’s done.
The Final Verdict:
Nostalgic lessons for today’s youth. The simple life of an era much different from today offers quite a contrast for young readers. As an adult, I can relate to the stories shared, and I hope middle-grade readers will give them a chance.

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