Sometimes, the best thing you can do for your reading life is to revisit the kinds of books that made you fall in love with reading in the first place – the early chapter books or middle-grade novels that illustrate the power of great storytelling. That’s the reason I picked up “To Night Owl From Dogfish,” a collaboration by authors Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolizter that had me feeling like a tween again.
In this modern version of “The Parent Trap,” two 12-year-old girls, Bett and Avery, strike up an unwanted correspondence after discovering that their dads fell in love at a conference and are secretly dating. Informed by their fathers that they soon will be sisters, Bett and Avery are forced to attend summer camp together while the dads take a motorcycle trip through China. Avery, a New Yorker, is bookish, intense and perpetually fearful; Bett, who lives in California, is bold, outgoing and loves to take risks. At first the two resist their fathers’ attempts to bring them closer together, but they eventually warm up to each other and learn what it means to be a good friend.
The story unfolds through a series of emails, letters, voice mails and other correspondence – an old-school epistolary novel with a decidedly modern flavor. Things get increasingly absurd for the girls and their fathers, but the plot moves along quickly and takes several surprising turns. Through it all, the characters feel fresh and real, the storyline ranging from laugh-out-loud funny to deeply poignant. The authors embrace the voice of their adolescent characters, as well as adults in their lives – camp counselors, Bett’s witty grandmother and Avery’s back-in-the-picture biological mom – who lend a deeper perspective to the themes of family and friendship.
“To Night Owl from Dogfish” would fulfill Category No. 3 in this year’s #ReadICT Challenge, a partnership between The Wichita Eagle and the Wichita Public Library.
For more information about the year-long, 12-book challenge, go to Kansas.com or WichitaLibrary.org/ReadICT.