Lowen Grover is a comic book artist, but he hasn’t drawn much after his friend was murdered during a shooting at convenience store. His parents, wondering if leaving the city would allow him to heal, applies to buy a foreclosed home for $1 in the tiny town of Millville. However, they soon wonder if the price is too good to be true.
The Dollar Kids has a soft, quiet opening as Lowen’s family applies for the house and then moves. However, the action soon ramps up as they settle into their new lives and meet their new neighbors. And what a cast of characters they are. The town librarian digs holes to bury her regrets. The school athletic coach is constantly recruiting Lowen just so his teams have enough players to officially play. The owner of the local breakfast restaurant radically alters her business to sabotage Lowen’s mother’s takeout place.
Maybe it’s because I’m a recent city transplant back to a rural area, but their reactions to Lowen and his family resonated with me. Their innate distance to new inhabitants seemed natural and even the restaurant sabotage was both frustrating and a realistic response.
At it’s core, this book is about struggle. Lowen struggles with his role in Abe’s death. The family struggles finding their place in their new community. The community itself struggles to thrive. Author Jennifer Richard Jacobson doesn’t shy away from the struggles that stem from finances, marriage, regrets, friends, and death. Yet, she skillfully keeps her characters moving into trajectories that allow them to manage these problems.
This is a quiet read, which I think fills a necessary niche in middle grade literature, and the result is something very special.
Title: The Dollar Kids
Author: Jennifer Richard Jacobson
Illustrator: Ryan Andrews
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: August 07, 2018
Classification: Middle Grade
Note: I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley.