Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe
Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe
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Annotation: When Cricket's Aunt Belinda accidentally forgets her in the grocery store, Cricket decides to run away once and for all, but Cricket has to stay close by because even though her mama hasn't been in touch since she disappeared, she'll surely come back.
Catalog Number: #165185
Format: Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Random House
Copyright Date: 2018
Edition Date: 2018
Pages: 231 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: 0-399-55738-5
ISBN 13: 978-0-399-55738-5
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2016018105
Dimensions: 22 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
ALA Booklist
After enduring Grandma's death, Mama's unexpected departure (again), and Daddy's fatal heart attack, 12-year-old Cricket pins her hopes on her mother's return and her own abilities. Fleeing Aunt Belinda's care, she hides out in the woods and searches an abandoned, overgrown town for clues leading to the "bird room," which her mentally unstable mother saw as a child and has longed to visit again. Cricket has never seen the room, meticulously painted with lifelike pictures of local species, but it takes on magical importance for her. Following clues left by the artist, she searches for the mysterious place and discovers so much more. Set in Mississippi, where Hackl lived as a child, the story is colorfully narrated by Cricket, who comes across as idiosyncratic, intrepid, and wholly likable. Her loyal pet cricket may seem fanciful, but the trials that the girl endures in the woods, from cold to hunger to a snakebite, are realistically portrayed. An author's note discusses her inspirations for certain elements of the story. An engaging first novel with a distinctive Southern setting.
Publishers Weekly
In this emotional first novel, the 12-year-old narrator, Cricket, poses an essential question: -Just how far will you go to get your mama back?- After the death of Cricket-s grandmother, her mother -went to pieces- and then -ran off.- Cricket is left with her steady father, but his sudden death thrusts her into the care of a scheming aunt. When lonely Cricket learns that she-ll be sent to a greedy second cousin, and she-s subsequently abandoned in a grocery store, she flees to the woods, along with a new pet-an actual cricket, which she names Charlene. Together, they set out to solve a mystery that Cricket hopes will bring her mother home. Hackl crafts an authentic, memorable character in Cricket as she pieces her mother-s mood swings, medicine, and eccentric behavior into a penetrating and mature realization about mental illness. This piercing, often humorous adventure demonstrates how facing the truth can bring freedom and hope. Ages 8-12. (July)
School Library Journal
Gr 46 After her father passes away and her mama runs off, Cricket decides to head out on a quest to find a mysterious room her mama always talked about. Her only clue is a coin from an abandoned ghost town. Living in an old treehouse in the woods, she searches for her next lead with the help of her daddy's old guidebook. Meanwhile, everyone is looking for her and if they find her, she'll have to go live with GAG, her great-aunt Genevieve. Cricket is an intriguing and complex protagonist, and the plot, full of adventure, treasure hunts, and mystery, will keep young readers hooked. Humorous chapter titles set the tone for each new discovery. VERDICT An entertaining addition to libraries where quirky Southern mystery adventures are in demand. Kira Moody, Salt Lake County Library Services
Word Count: 38,630
Reading Level: 4.7
Interest Level: 3-6
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.7 / points: 6.0 / quiz: 199520 / grade: Middle Grades
Lexile: 720L

Turns out, it's easier than you might think to sneak out of town smuggling a live cricket, three pocketfuls of jerky, and two bags of half-paid-for merchandise from Thelma's Cash 'n' Carry grocery store.
 
The hard part was getting up the guts to go.
 
It happened like this: There I was in Thelma's produce section, running my fingers up and down a bundle of collards. Collards never did make for good eating, but I was wondering if maybe they were some kind of sign that it was time for me to skedaddle. Collards always reminded me of Mama. She used to make me drawing paper out of collards, sumac seeds, dryer lint, and newspaper Daddy chopped up in his wood chipper. She plunked things in her paper the way other people stuck things in scrapbooks. Thread from the hem of her wedding dress, a four-leaf clover, Daddy's first gray hair. Mama's paper held so much life, it made my drawings pop right off the page.
 
That was the kind of mama and daddy I used to have.
 
I was ruffling up those collards, mourning my daddy and scheming on how to sneak away to win back Mama. Not that I had much time for scheming. Aunt Belinda, Little Quinn, Jackson, and Clay were the next aisle over. My cousins were working hard at plowing down every last tower of cans in that store. Aunt Belinda, she was working hard at keeping some distance between her cart and those crashes.
 
Me, I was supposed to be finding Aunt Belinda some hot sauce. She hadn't even started her potato salad or her red velvet cake, and already folks were busy unsnapping folding chairs, setting up for the fry. As in the February Firehouse Jubilee Fish Fry and Red Velvet Cake Cook-Off--the place where Aunt Belinda said she was finally going to land herself a new husband to take the place of Daddy's no-account brother. She already had her sights set on the new fireman, the one with the king-cab truck.
 
"Get your head out of the clouds, Cricket." Aunt Belinda knocked my hand off the collards. So much for signs. "Make yourself useful. I need that hot sauce. And call Aunt Fig and find out whether her cake recipe calls for buttermilk or sweet milk." She handed me her cell phone.
 
It came alive with the sound of "Love Me Like You Mean It."
 
Aunt Belinda grabbed back the phone. "WOKT Country is my favorite radio station," she chirped.
 
I rolled my eyes. Soon as Aunt Belinda got named a finalist for the Dollywood Trivia Trip of a Lifetime, she'd started answering her phone that way so she'd win if WOKT called.
 
Aunt Belinda ducked her chin and shuffled two steps back. "Can't talk now. This coming Wednesday. Got it."
 
She rambled through her purse, found the Post-it note with her to-do list, and scratched down two lines. Slapping the note on top of her purse, she looked at my bangs, not meeting my eyes. "Pecans are your favorite, right?" She threw a big bag in her cart, the expensive kind, not store brand.
 
My neck hairs went prickly.
 
With money too tight even for dollar-store art supplies, why was Aunt Belinda buying me things all of a sudden? Did she want me to do some more blind-date babysitting? I poked at the bag. "Who was that on the phone?"
 
Aunt Belinda just stared at the rutabagas, sucking her cheeks in like she was working on a mint. Finally, she yanked a tube of Wanda's Classy Lady Peach Passion lipstick out of her purse and jerked it across her lips. "Never you mind. Now get me that hot sauce. Pronto."
 
My cousins swarmed up and started prying the bottom okra can out of the pyramid display.
 
Aunt Belinda spun her cart around, and the sticky note flew off her purse.
 
"Hey, you dropped . . . ," I yelled after her, but she was already speeding toward the meat section.
 
I left the note right where it was. The sooner I found the hot sauce, the sooner we could all get out of the store.
 
But before I even got past the Duke's mayonnaise, I spotted her--a little brown cricket stuck in a spiderweb on the baseboard.
 
The poor thing was trapped even worse than me. She was trying to wiggle out and was tangling herself up worse. The spider skittered close.
 
I snatched that cricket loose.
 
Not fast enough.
 
I saved her from the spider, but Little Quinn swooped in like a duck on a June bug. "Look, Clay, Cricket's done found herself a cricket. Maybe they're related."
 
Twisting away, I studied the bug in my hand. It was probably her and her kin who'd been making music in our backyard all last summer.
 
After a minute, she figured out I wasn't going to hurt her none. Her antennae relaxed, and she took a tiny step on legs as thin as embroidery thread. She looked like she was listening for something. Was she hoping for the sound of someone out there calling, calling, calling, and waiting for her to answer back?
 
Maybe I did have more in common with that bug than just a name.
 
The cricket turned her warm brown eyes on me and cocked her head. I swear she saw inside me and asked the same exact question I'd been asking myself for days: Just how far will you go to get your mama back?
 
Before I could even think about answering, Little Quinn pulled a firecracker out of his pocket and dug for the matches. "Hand her over." He sounded bored. It was just another blowing-things-up Saturday.
 
I kicked him in the shin, not hard enough to leave a bruise he could point at, just enough to get him out of the way. Pulling the cricket in tight, I shot for the door.
 
But Aunt Belinda wheeled up and pointed at me with a Trans Am-red fingernail. "Put that nasty thing down and find me that hot sauce." She plopped a loaf of white bread in her cart and cut her eyes toward the store clock, its hands almost at noon. "You know they're shutting up early for the fry."
 
"Just a minute. I need to . . ."
 
Aunt Belinda tilted her face toward the greasy ceiling tiles. "Lord, please save me from selfish children." Then her voice turned into the one she used when she was trying to get her boys to bed. "Just help me out this one time, Cricket. For the fry. Will you do that much?"
 
"Yes, ma'am," I sighed, trying to get out of hearing, for the umpteenth time, all the things Aunt Belinda used to do to help out her family when she was twelve.
 
My cousins swaggered closer, blocking the way to the door. I had to get the cricket out if she was going to make it.
 
"Gotta go." I swerved toward the bathroom.
 
The back lights were already off, and I fumbled for the bathroom switch. One tiny window glowed on the rear wall, the glass painted in the same overcooked butter-bean color as the rest of the store. A slice of light showed through the bottom, though, where the window was pushed out. Just big enough for the cricket.
 
That was the good news. The bad news was, the window was too high to reach. A tall trash can stood next to the door. I waltzed it side to side over to the window, holding my breath against the smell of dirty diapers, Comet, and wet brown paper towels.
 
"Cricket, I hope you're grateful," I whispered.
 
She wasn't.
 
Soon as I opened my fingers to check on her, she sprang onto the lightbulb over the mirror.
 
I wriggled my way onto a sink, prayed the whole thing wouldn't fall off the wall, and tried to coax her loose before she got burned.
 
Instead, she catapulted onto the top of a stall. Balancing on a lopsided toilet seat, I lunged after her. Aunt Belinda was going to kill me for taking so long.
 
By the time I finally caught her, we'd visited all four toilets once and some two times.
 
I was out of breath and really, really needed to wash my hands.
 
But I'll say one thing for that cricket--she had a mind of her own. "Names carry a power," Daddy always said. Right then and there, I picked out a good one for her--Charlene. Mama's middle name.
 
Hoisting myself onto the trash can rim, I pushed the window open wider and started to let Charlene out. But instead of clean air, I got slapped with the smell of fresh-poured asphalt from the side parking lot. Charlene would get stuck in the tar. I'd have to take her out the front. I eased the bathroom door open.
 
The store was dark, too dark.
 
It was too quiet.
 
It was too empty.
 
It took me about a minute to figure out that the only living creatures in the store were me and that cricket.
 
She stared at me with those question eyes of hers, waiting on me to make the next move.



Excerpted from Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe by Jo Watson Hackl
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Eleven days. Thirteen clues. And one kid who won't give up. Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe is "part treasure hunt, part wilderness adventure, and all heart."--Alan Gratz, New York Times Bestselling author of Refugee

How far would you go to find something that might not even exist?

All her life, Cricket's mama has told her stories about a secret room painted by a mysterious artist. Now Mama's run off, and Cricket thinks the room might be the answer to getting her to come back. If it exists. And if she can find it.

Cricket's only clue is a coin from a grown-over ghost town in the woods. So with her daddy's old guidebook and a coat full of snacks stolen from the Cash 'n' Carry, Cricket runs away to find the room. Surviving in the woods isn't easy. While Cricket camps out in an old tree house and looks for clues, she meets the last resident of the ghost town, encounters a poetry-loving dog (who just might hold a key to part of the puzzle), and discovers that sometimes you have to get a little lost . . . to really find your way.

2019 Southern Book Award Winner--Children's Category

* "Told in the easy, laconic tone of good, Southern storytelling, Hackl's debut rolls off the tongue and into the heart easy as warm butter on a biscuit. Lyrical and endearing, this debut is a genuine adventure tale."--Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

"A tale of adventure, full of mystery." --Robert Beatty, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Serafina and the Black Cloak

"Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe is part treasure hunt, part wilderness adventure, and all heart."--Alan Gratz, New York Times Bestselling author of Refugee

"A heartwarming coming-of-age story." --Kirby Larson, Newbery Honor-winning author of Hattie Big Sky

"A masterful debut. Cricket is my new hero, brave and funny and full of heart. I couldn't put it down."--Augusta Scattergood,  author of Glory Be

"A brilliant, utterly absorbing debut. I couldn't get enough of Cricket's adventures. Totally unputdownable."--Carrie Ryan, New York TImes Bestselling author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth


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