by Gary Schmidt
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8–While not as richly layered as Schmidt's Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy (Clarion, 2004), this novel touches on similar themes. When Cooper Jewett's beloved grandfather, whose endearment for the 14-year-old is, â??You're my first boy,â?? dies suddenly, the teen finds himself completely alone. He's never even seen a picture of his parents. Cooper is determined to stay on the New Hampshire dairy farm that he loves, although school, cross-country practice, and endless chores make that decision nearly impossible. The Big Men in black sedans who begin to follow him, ransacking the farm and setting fire to a barn, set off a series of events that ends with him being kidnapped and meeting the president. Senator Wickham, a candidate for the Democratic nomination, wishing to smear the incumbent, uncovers a scandal and believes that the President and the First Gentleman (yes, that's right: a woman president and a nice touch) are the boy's parents. However, since the president refuses to take a DNA test, readers are never certain whether or not Cooper is indeed the First Boy. He just wants to be home with his friends who love him and, in the end, he is able to stay. Cooper's grief, solitude, and loneliness are poignantly and realistically drawn, and secondary characters add humor to this fast-paced tale. At times, but not nearly as often as in Lizzie Bright, the writing reaches the lyricism so compelling in that novel. Like Turner in that book, Cooper learns how memories keep loved ones alive.–Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME
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