Derek’s father has been deployed to Afghanistan for months. Derek’s only communication with him is through letters. He keeps all of his dad’s letters in a Knight Rider lunchbox and reads them whenever he needs his dad. Derek is also having a tough time at school. His friend Budgie is only nice to him when they are alone. At school he makes fun of Derek and is very mean to him. Derek lives a lonely life filled with superhero comics and cartoons. Then one day he finds out that his father’s helicopter has been shot down and he did not survive. Derek’s world turns upside down and he and his mom have to figure out how to cope.
I really enjoyed this story. II thought it was touching and sad and funny and all the things you would want from this type of book. However, it wasn’t perfect. Derek seems to be a bit immature for his age (5th grade). He still believes in Santa Claus and is obsessed with his favorite cartoons. Derek also seems to have some behavioral problems where he acts out without thought. I thought the bullying from Budgie was well done and showed just how insecure kids are at this age. It is the time where they are growing out of being a child and becoming young adults. This is the period when they become more aware of what others think of them and how they are perceived. Budgie isn’t a bad kid, but he doesn’t have a lot going for him. So he bullies Derek and others to make it seem like he is more secure than he is. Derek tries to deflect the bullying, but can only take so much. This is a story about a boy trying to become a man without his father around, but it is also the story of a boy just trying to be himself. Great message and a great read.