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Summary: Arlo (11), an orphan, lives with his grandfather. Poppo has trouble with his memories, and soon it begins to be harmful to them both. After an incident, a social worker calls Arlo. Arlo panics and runs away to the only family he knows - his estranged grandmother. He learns about his grandmother, her life, and slowly uncovers all the mystery surrounding his family. With a bit of help from a local girl, he finds out about an opportunity for money that could come from the old house his grandmother lives in so that he and his grandmother don't have to move. This is a middle grade novel about family, choices, and hope. This is a High Interest / Low Readability option for struggling readers.
Type of Reading: family reading, independent reading, read aloud book, remedial reader
Recommended Age: read together: 10 and Up; read yourself: 9 and Up
Interest Level: 10 to 16
Reading Level: 3.6
Age of Child: Read by a 16-year-old Reading Tub volunteer.
Young Reader Reaction: All That's Missing engages the reader. It is slightly sad but not so sad that you leave the book feeling melancholy. Arlo is a smart and relatable kid who makes good decisions. His bravery is something younger kids can relate to and look up to. Although I'm on the upper edge of the target audience, I liked the book and would read it again. The book very successfully blends elements of sadness with elements of adventure. Without spoiling the end, there is happiness and loose ends are tied up well.
Adult Reader Reaction: Although never an orphan, I have experienced strained family relations. I could definitely relate to Arlo's feelings of pain and loss. I found All That's Missing to be a hopeful, uplifting story.
Pros: Readers will find themselves quickly wanting to be Arlo's friend (and not just for the potential treasure in Grandma's house!). Those who love adventure will enjoy the story; and those who like character-driven stories won't be disappointed.
Cons: The reading level for this book is early elementary (3.7), but the story is for a more mature audience. The emotional themes border on "too heavy." Readers who have experienced things such as Alzheimer's before may see it as painful. Toward the end, the plot seems a bit unbelievable, but it is not outrageous.
Borrow or Buy: Buy. Our teen says "it is a good enough book that is memorable enough to have a place on your bookshelf."
Educational Themes: There are several opportunities throughout the story where you can pause and ask "what would you do if you were in this situation?" For pre/teens struggling with losing a family member to disease, All That's Missing could be helpful in getting them to talk (by focusing on Arlo and his feelings).
Notes: The publisher donated an Advance Review Copy (ARC) of this book knowing that we would consider it for review and provide an independent, unbiased profile. This book will be given to a nonprofit to help readers in need.
Literary Categories: Fiction - family, social issues, adventure
Date(s) Reviewed: September 2015
Other Reviews: See Critics Reviews at barnesandnoble.com; and reviews and reader feedback at amazon.com.