Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 7 to 10
- Grade: 2 to 5
- Reading age: 7 to 10
Charlie and his family are about to embark on another trip, to another out-of-the-way place off the beaten path. This time they are heading to an island in Croatia, a country Charlie has never even heard of. An incredibly beautiful country that lives in the shadow of war and conflict.
Even for a seasoned traveler like Charlie, Croatia is a very different experience. To travel in a country where the language is completely unfamiliar and half the words have no vowels. To visit remote villages where the Internet is so slow, you might as well not have it at all. Where goats are a traffic-calming device, red cliffs loom like fortresses over an impossibly blue sea, and luggage porters are a line of women pushing wheelbarrows.
Still, Charlie and his little brother, Max, manage to find adventure wherever they go. There’s cliff diving, pigs on spits, hair-raising ferry crossings and snake juice for breakfast (“Breakfast in Croatia — at your own risk!”). And there’s a sober side to their adventures this time, too. A friend who was sentenced to Croatia’s version of Alcatraz, despite committing no crime. An unsettling encounter with the Hermit of Vrgada. The sight of a half-destroyed village divided by a war that nobody won.
Charlie finds out that this area of the world has a long and troubled history, that wars are complicated, and that long-time feuds can continue to divide neighbors generations later. But he also discovers that you don’t need to speak the same language to communicate with people. Not when you’re having a party in a field, surrounded by goats and dancing in the glow of car headlights with the radio blaring out Croatian music.
A warm, funny and thought-provoking book that celebrates a child’s love of adventure and boundless curiosity about the world.
About the authors
MARIE-LOUISE GAY has achieved international acclaim as an author and illustrator of children’s books. She has won many awards, including two Governor General’s awards, the Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Award, the Vicky Metcalf Award and the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award. She has also been nominated for the prestigious Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award and the Hans Christian Andersen Award. Marie-Louise’s very popular Stella and Sam series has been translated into more than fifteen languages and is loved by children all over the world. Her recent books include Any Questions? and Short Stories for Little Monsters. She lives in Montreal. marielouisegay.com
David Homel was born in Chicago in 1952 and left that city in 1970 for Paris, living in Europe the next few years on odd jobs and odder couches. He has published eight novels, from Electrical Storms in 1988 to The Teardown, which won the Paragraph Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction in 2019. He has also written young adult fiction with Marie-Louise Gay, directed documentary films, worked in TV production, been a literary translator, journalist, and creative writing teacher. He has translated four books for Linda Leith Publishing: Bitter Roase (2015), (2016), Nan Goldin: The Warrior Medusa (2017) and Taximan (2018). Lunging into the Underbrush is his first book of non-fiction. He lives in Montreal.
Hints of gravity punctuate but do not puncture the holiday fun . . . A salutary, unusual look at part of the world rarely seen in North American children's literature, wrapped up in family fun.
Charlie’s voice and humor lighten even the darker moments, and his interaction with, and eventual appreciation of, even the quirkiest characters will guide young readers by example.
School Library Journal
A warm and amusing book that celebrates the enthusiasm of children to explore the unfamiliar world around them.
An enjoyable read that could also trigger discussions of culture, history, ethics and politics.
The prose is spry, literate, and lively, making this, and the whole series, a must for budding world-travelers.
The wryly amusing story shows that less popular destinations can offer unexpected rewards as well as new ideas to ponder.