Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Outside Nowhere

Borba, Adam. Outside Nowhere
October 18th 2022 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Parker Kelbrook lives with his long suffering father; his mother is out of the picture. Their life in Pittsburgh is hard, even though they have a patron in Ms. Birdseye, who has an emotional tie to Parker's mother. She helped Parker get a job at a local pool, but he thought it would be funny to dump a large quantity of purple drink into the pool before his shift even starts, causing $3,000 worth of damage. Parker, who has a love for wearing vintage suits, thinks he can use his charm to get out of punishment and go to spend the summer at the beach with his best friend, but his father has had enough. Even though Ms. Birdseye covers the damage, Parker soon finds himself on a train to the Midwest. He ends up working on a farm run by a quiet man and his neice, Molly. He forgets his luggage on the train (he thinks someone will get it for him; he's that entitled), and has to wear moldy smelly hand-me-downs while he picks weeds around the farm with other workers, including Ms. Birdseye's nephew. The farm grows radishes, and delivers them to very selected clientele; the worker are not allowed to eat the crop. Parker does several destructive things that cause everyone else a lot of work; it takes him a while to take his new life seriously. The radishes are a magical crop, and once Parker realizes that he has an important role in the success of the farm, he not only starts to work diligently but is even seen coming back the following year, having changed his selfish ways. 
Strengths: Parker is a very unlikable character who does some serious introspection and learns that his actions affect others. I enjoyed the farm setting and the depiction on how hard it is to grow crops; I've planted potatoes, and have friends who regularly walked beans in Iowa, and don't think my students really understand farm life as much as they should! The magical radishes are an interesting topic, and I don't want to say too much about them. Take a look at the cover to see more! This was a fun, quirky title for readers who want to temper their view of magic with gritty (as in farm dirt!) reality!
Weaknesses: I wasn't quite sure when this was set; one character mentions not having a telephone, another listening to the radio for entertainment, and there's Parker's devotion to vintage suits. There's a buggy that Molly takes to the train station. Other parts of this seemed modern. I can see where the cover is going artistically, but I'm not sure my students will. 
What I really think: This light magical realism reminded me a bit of the picture book McBroom's Farm, 
 or Clark's What We Found in the Sofa and How It Saved the World.

Ms. Yingling

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