The Natural Genius of Ants

Listening Library. May 2022. 508p. $45. ISBN 9780593584309.
Gr 3-7–Harvard and Roger’s father sat in their city apartment for five months after “the mistake”—which caused the death of an infant in his care. Dad’s now decided to take the boys to his hometown of Kettle Hole, ME, where he’s just “the Corson boy there, not Dr. Corson.” Mom can’t leave her research, but she needs Dad to “use this summer to figure out a way to forgive [him]self.” They’re renting Dad’s childhood friend Vern’s house—without internet or TV—but Vern’s daughter Nevaeh (“heaven spelled backwards”) turns out to be a wonderfully welcoming friend. Alejandro Ruiz deftly distinguishes the sizable cast: he’s especially empathic to clever, funny, kind Harvard, and just as affecting as adorable Roger, wise-beyond-her-years Nevaeh, slowly improving Dad, and Dominican American Mom.
VERDICT With notable versatility, Ruiz magnifies the gentle goodness of Culley’s affecting story, enabling younger readers to face difficult issues.

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