“Clean Getaway” by Nic Stone, 2020, Crown Books for Young Readers, 229 pages, $16.99
Your next vacation could be the dream of a lifetime.
It could take you to the beach, park or mountains, shopping or sightseeing, visiting pals or hanging with family. A vacation could get you one city away, it can whisk you halfway around the world or, as in the new book “Clean Getaway” by Nic Stone, a vacation can take you where you don’t want to be.
Eleven-year-old William “Scoob” Lamar wondered when everything went bad.
Was it after he got into a fight at school or after he was wrongly accused of cheating? Yeah, he was wrong there on both counts, but the larger issue was that his dad wasn’t acting like dad lately and went punishment overboard. Scoob was grounded.
Ugh, Scoob hated “lockdown.” So, when G’ma called and asked if he wanted to take a “little adventure,” he scribbled a note, ditched his phone and jumped at the chance.
He loved G’ma. She was more like a friend than a grandmother, so when she said she sold her house to buy an RV, a “sweet ride” with all the plush, Scoob was sad. Sold her house? OK, her decision. Scoob settled in for a quick trip.
And then G’ma started talking.
Fifty-one years ago, at the height of the civil rights movement, Scoob’s G’ma and G’pop wanted to take a trip from Atlanta to Mexico, but they didn’t get far. G’ma was white and G’pop was black, and there were many places where they weren’t welcome. Because G’pop had died in prison and never had a chance to travel, G’ma, said she’d do the road trip in his memory. It was her “chance at redemption.”
But many things were off. As they tripped from Birmingham to Meridian to Jackson to Louisiana and Texas, Scoob was pretty sure they’d dined-and-dashed more than once and stolen some gas. The license plates on the RV kept changing and G’ma was avoiding phone calls. Then there was the “mistake” at the jewelry store.
Scoob knew they were going to Mexico ... but what was going on?
For a child who loves to travel, “Clean Getaway” is the book to pack.
It’s got adventure in it and a surprising amount of history and geography, so your child will learn something. The story flows nicely, Stone doesn’t force the action or the humor here, and her Scoob is a character that’s relatable to 8-to-12-year-olds who’ll enjoy watching him take on challenges while he takes this trip. For children, especially ones spreading their wings, that could be role model material.
And yet, not all is perfect. The main irritation here — the one that parents will want to know about — is that bathroom habits appear often in this book. Too often, like, more than twice, and it’s absolutely nose-wrinkling too much information.
Will young readers notice that? Probably so, but will they care? Maybe not, if they’re enjoying the book enough. The best thing, perhaps, is to let them try “Clean Getaway” and see where it takes them.