Levy, Dana Alison. The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island. 272p. ebook available. Delacorte. May 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780553521306; lib. ed. $18.99. ISBN 9780553521313.
Gr 4-6 –The Fletcher family—four adopted boys, two dads, two cats, and one dog—are off to their annual summer visit to Rock Island. This year the Fletchers’ beloved lighthouse is closed and has been threatened with demolition. While seeking answers to the lighthouse problem, Sam joins a theater company, Eli faces his fear of kayaking, and Frog attempts to teach the cats how to swim (in between visits to the ice cream truck, of course). As in the first book, gentle humor abounds: in one memorable scene, a series of mishaps literally sinks the boys’ latest lighthouse fund-raising scheme. This time, though, race is an issue: African American Jax and his Latino (and gender-ambiguous) friend Alex are profiled as criminals while engaging in an essentially harmless stunt. Papa’s response to the incident—that he can only try to understand what being black is like and that racists do exist but that good people outnumber them—is heartbreakingly honest. A mysterious artist, a video-toting neighbor, a cheery ship captain, and Aunt Lucy’s African American magician boyfriend round out the cast, and multiple plotlines converge in a denouement in which nefarious plans are foiled and the beloved lighthouse is saved. VERDICT A must-have middle grade family story with contemporary sensibilities.
This review was published in the School Library Journal April 2016 issue.