Pay Attention, Carter Jones
Pay Attention, Carter Jones

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Annotation: Sixth-grader Carter must deal with burdens from his past while he adjusts to the new, unwelcome presence of a know-it-all butler who is determined to help him become a gentleman.
Catalog Number: #170806
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Copyright Date: 2019
Edition Date: 2019
Pages: 217 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-544-79085-5 Perma-Bound: 0-7804-3062-X
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-544-79085-8 Perma-Bound: 978-0-7804-3062-4
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2018033909
Dimensions: 21 cm.
Language: English
Publishers Weekly
Schmidt (Orbiting Jupiter) fuses pathos and humor in this adroitly layered novel that opens as Carter answers the doorbell to find a dapper British -gentleman-s gentleman,- a former employee of the boy-s grandfather, whose will bequeathed his service to Carter-s family. And they do need some sorting out: the sixth grader-s father has been deployed to Germany, and his emotionally fraught mother is struggling to parent her four children alone in New York State. Endearingly devoted to his younger sisters, Carter is reeling from his beloved brother-s sudden death, his alienation from his uncommunicative father (hauntingly underscored in flashbacks to an angst-riddled camping trip), and the sickening realization that his father isn-t coming home. The butler-s strict adherence to decorum and the Queen-s English triggers amusing repartee with slang-loving Carter; he also recognizes and assuages the boy-s pain by introducing him-and his schoolmates-to cricket, which gives them all a sense of purpose and pride. Opening each chapter with a definition of a cricket term, Schmidt weaves the sport-s jargon into the narrative, further enriching the verbal badinage and reinforcing the affecting bond between a hurting boy and a compassionate man. Ages 10-12. (Feb.)
School Library Journal Starred Review
Gr 48 Young Carter Jones opens the front door one morning to find an English butler on his doorstep. Sent to the Jones family by his late grandfather, Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick reforms the household with his wit, precision, and commitment to decorum. As Carter deals with his father's deployment, Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick also takes on the role of emotional caretaker and support for Carter. Together, they play cricket and learn that the rules of the game are also the rules for a healthy and happy life. Schmidt, author of the celebrated Wednesday Wars , strikes gold again with this emotionally complex character who learns to navigate change and disappointment, and, more important, how to receive help. Schmidt writes with a clear and compelling voice, and masterfully crafts Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick as an endearing family helper and friend with a Mary Poppinslike disposition. The use of cricket as a narrative tool to embolden Carter is clever and will surely peak young readers' interest in the sport. VERDICT A rich and nuanced middle grade novel that will appeal to readers who feel a little on the outskirts. Katherine Hickey, Metropolitan Library System, Oklahoma City
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
Carter Jones' family inherits the services of a "gentleman's gentleman" with a passion for cricket just when they most need him.Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick arrives in a purple Bentley at their New York state home during a downpour on the morning of Carter's first day of sixth grade. The Butler, as Carter thinks of him, helps with Mary Poppins-like efficiency and perceptiveness to organize and transform the chaos of a household with little money, four children, a father deployed overseas, and a gaping hole. Six-year-old Currier died three years ago, and Carter carries his brother's green shooter marble like a talisman. Carter's memories of a more recent wilderness trip with his father are filled with deep sadness and foreboding. Meanwhile, Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick (amusingly snobby about pizza, television, and American slang) encourages Carter to step up, to play a bigger role in his sisters' lives—and to learn to play cricket. Schmidt convincingly conveys the zany elegance and appeal of the game without excessive explanation. Though the newly formed middle school cricket team includes boys surnamed Yang and Singh, none of the characters are described by race, and the primary cast is assumed white. Schmidt gracefully weaves together the humor of school, siblings, and a dachshund with a delicate digestive system with deeper themes of family connection, disappointment, anger, and grief. The result is wonderfully impressive and layered. (Fiction. 10-13)
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* Pandemonium reigns in the Jones household (mother, son, three younger daughters, and one excitable dog) on the first day of school at 7:15 a.m., when 12-year-old Carter answers the doorbell and meets the Butler. This portly Englishman immediately begins to put things right, offering his services to Mrs. Jones and explaining that he was "willed" to the family by his late employer, the children's grandfather. Their father is an army captain deployed in Germany. Initially wary of the Butler, Carter resists his quiet authority, but slowly begins to trust the man, who teaches him to drive the Bentley, organizes a wildly popular cricket match at his middle school, and offers him implicit guidance when he needs it most. The Butler is a distinctive character with dry wit and an unshakable sense of purpose. While comparisons with Mary Poppins may be inevitable, the only magic here is the everyday kind brought about by broad understanding, sensible actions, and uncommon courtesy applied over a period of time. Not so much an unreliable narrator as an evasive one, Carter has things on his mind that initially he's not ready to deal with, much less communicate to others. Yet his engaging narrative leads readers through a broad range of emotions in this beautifully written, often amusing, and ultimately moving novel.
Word Count: 43,922
Reading Level: 4.0
Interest Level: 4-7
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 5.3 / points: 7.0 / quiz: 501634 / grade: Middle Grades
Lexile: 840L

· 1 ·

Cricket teams, both batting and fielding, may have up to eleven players each. The captain of the batting team determines the order of the batsmen; the captain of the fielding team sets players in positions determined by the style and pace of the bowler.

If it hadn't been the first day of school, and if my mother hadn't been crying her eyes out the night before, and if the fuel pump on the Jeep had been doing what a fuel pump on a Jeep is supposed to be doing, and if it hadn't been raining like an Australian tropical thunderstorm--​and I've been in one, so I know what it's like--​and if the very last quart of one percent milk hadn't gone sour and clumped up, then probably my mother would never have let the Butler into our house.
     But that's what the day had been like so far, and it was only 7:15 in the morning.
     7:15 in the morning on the first day of school, when the Butler rang our doorbell.
     I answered it.
     I looked at the guy standing on our front stoop.
     "Are you kidding?" I said.
     That's what you would have said too. He was tall and big around the belly and wearing the kind of suit you'd wear to a funeral--​I've been to one of those too, so I know what a funeral suit looks like--​and he had a bowler on his head. A bowler! Which nobody has worn since, like, horses and carriages went out of business. And everything--​the big belly, the funeral suit, the bowler--​everything was completely dry even though it was an Australian tropical thunderstorm outside because he stood underneath an umbrella as big as a satellite disk.
     The guy looked down at me. "I assure you, young man, I am never kidding."
     I closed the door.
     I went to the kitchen. Mom was tying back Emily's hair, which explains why the dry Ace Robotroid Sugar Stars Emily was eating were dribbling out both sides of her mouth. Charlie was still looking for her other yellow sock because she couldn't start fourth grade without it--​she couldn't she couldn't she couldn't--​and Annie was telling her what a baby she was, and Charlie was saying she was not she was not she was not, and just because Annie was going into fifth grade that didn't make Annie the boss of her. Then Charlie looked at me and said, "Does it?" and I said, "You think I care?"
     "Carter," my mom said, "your oatmeal is on the stove and you'll have to mix in your own raisins and there's some walnuts too but no more brown sugar. And, Carter, before you do that, I need you to run down to the deli and--"
     "There's a guy out on our front stoop," I said.
     "There's a guy out on our front stoop."
     My mother stopped tying back Emily's hair.
     "Is he from the army?" she said.
     I shrugged.
     "Is he or isn't he?"
     "He's not wearing a uniform."
     "Are you sure?"
     "Pretty sure."
     My mother started tying back Emily's hair again. "Tell him it's the first day of school and he should go find someone else to buy whatever he's selling at seven fifteen in the morning."
     "Annie can do it."
     My mother gave me That Look, so I went back to the front door and opened it. "My mom says it's the first day of school and you should go find someone else to buy whatever you're selling at seven fifteen in the morning."
     He shook his umbrella.
     "Young Master Jones," he said, "please inform your mother that I would very much like to speak with her."
     I closed the door.
     I went back to the kitchen.
     "Did you tell him to go away?" said my mother. I think this is what she said. She had a bunch of bobby pins in her mouth and she was sticking them around Emily's head and Emily was hollering and spitting out Ace Robotroid Sugar Stars at every poke, so it was hard to understand what my mother was saying.
     "He wants to talk to you," I said.
     "He's not going to--"
     A sudden wail from Charlie, who held up her other yellow sock, which Ned had thrown up on. Ned is our dachshund and dachshunds throw up a lot.
     "Carter, go get some milk," said my mother. "Charlie, stop crying. Annie, it doesn't help to make faces at Charlie. Emily, if you move your head again I'm going to bobby-pin your bangs to your eyebrows."
     I went back to the front and opened the door.
     The guy was still standing on the stoop, but the Australian tropical thunderstorm was starting to get in under the umbrella.
     "Listen," I said, "my mom's going crazy in there. I have to go to the deli and get milk so we can eat breakfast. And Charlie's crying because Ned threw up on her other yellow sock, and Annie's being a pain in the glutes, and Emily's bangs are about to get pinned to her eyebrows, and I haven't even packed my backpack yet--​and that takes a while, you know--​and we have to leave soon since we have to walk to school because the fuel pump on the Jeep isn't working, and we only have one umbrella. So just go away."
     The guy leaned down.
     "Young Master Jones," he said, "if you were able to sprint between wickets with the speed of your run-on sentences, you would be welcome in any test match in the world. For now, though, go back inside. In your room, gather what is needed for your backpack. When you have completed that task, find your mother and do whatever is necessary to insure that she is no longer"--​he paused--​"going crazy." He angled the umbrella a little to keep off the Australian tropical thunderstorm. "While you are doing whatever is necessary, I will purchase the milk."
     I looked at the guy. He was wet up to his knees now.
     "Do you always talk like that?" I said.
     "If you are inquiring whether I always speak the Queen's English, the answer is, of course, yes."
     "I mean the way you say everything like you want it to smell good."
     The guy shook the rain off his umbrella. I sort of think he meant to shake it all over me.
     "Young Master Jones--"
     "And that: 'Young Master Jones.' No one talks like that."
     "Obviously, some do."
     "And that: 'Ob--​vi--​ous--​ly.' It takes you a whole minute to say it. 'Ob--​vi--​ous--​ly.'"
     The guy leaned down. "I am going to purchase the milk now," he said. "You shall pack your backpack. Do it properly, then attend to your mother."
     He turned to go.
     "Are you trying to convert me or something?" I said.
     "Yes," he said, without turning back. "Now, to your appointed tasks."
     So I went upstairs and packed the new notebooks and old pens and old pencils and my father's old science calculator in my backpack, and I put the green marble in my front pocket--​all this did take a while, you know--​and then I went down to the kitchen where my mother was braiding Annie's hair and Charlie was sniffing with her arms crossed and Emily was finishing her dry Ace Robotroid Sugar Stars. My mother said, "Where's the milk?" and then the doorbell rang again.
     "I'll get it," I said.
     Guess who it was.
     His pants were wet most of the way up when he handed me a bag.
     "I have procured the milk," he said.
     "Obviously," I said. "Is it one percent?"
     "Certainly not--​and mockery is the lowest form of discourse."
     He handed me another bag.
     "What's this?" I said.
     "The package is for Miss Charlotte," he said. "Tell her we are most fortunate that American delicatessens are, though parsimonious in their selection of food items that have seen the light of the sun, at least eclectic."
     "She won't know what eclectic means."
     "That either."
     The guy sighed. "The contents are self-explanatory."
     I took the bags and closed the door. I carried the milk to the kitchen and set it on the table. Then I gave Charlie the other bag.
     "What's this?" she said.
     "How should I know?"
     "Because you're handing it to me. That's how you should know."
     "It's something electric," I said.
     "Something electric?"
     "I don't know. It's from the guy standing on our front stoop."
     My mother looked up from Annie's braids. "The guy standing on our front stoop? He's still there?"
     Charlie opened her bag and took out--​I know this is hard to believe--​brand-new bright yellow socks. She screamed her happy scream. That's the scream she makes that could stop a planet from spinning.
     My mother looked at the bright yellow socks, then at the milk.
     "It's not one percent," she said.
     "Certainly not," I said.
     My mother dropped Annie's braids and headed out of the kitchen.

Excerpted from Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt
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.

Bestselling author Gary D. Schmidt tells a coming-of-age story with the light touch of The Wednesday Wars, the heart of Okay for Now, and the unique presence of a wise and witty butler. Carter Jones is astonished early one morning when he finds a real English butler, bowler hat and all, on the doorstep--one who stays to help the Jones family, which is a little bit broken. In addition to figuring out middle school, Carter has to adjust to the unwelcome presence of this new know-it-all adult in his life and navigate the butler's notions of decorum. And ultimately, when his burden of grief and anger from the past can no longer be ignored, Carter learns that a burden becomes lighter when it is shared. Sparkling with humor, this insightful and compassionate story will resonate with readers who have confronted secrets of their own.

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