Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Lump of Coal, by Lemony Snicket

Finally, here’s a holiday story told from a different perspective.  At Christmastime, a living lump of coal falls off a barbecue grill and wishes for a miracle to happen.  This particular lump of coal wants to be an artist, but is rejected by a local gallery.  He’s also unsuccessful in finding work at a restaurant, and is about to give up when he runs into a man dressed as Santa Claus.  Finally, through a strange turn of events, the lump of coal finds himself in a position to become the perfect Christmas gift.

This book is a true Christmas miracle, a holiday story without any type of preachy message.  It’s a book about fitting in where you can, and like all of Lemony Snicket’s other books the author has a way of building rapport with the reader.  Children who pick up this book will not be talked down to, but rather taken along on a short but special holiday journey.

Merry Christmas, everyone!  Keep reading!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Fizzlebert Stump: The Boy Who Ran Away From The Circus (and joined the library), by A.F. Harrold

There are many boys in the world and some of them have the same name, but there’s only one Fizzlebert.  This boy is as unique as his name, as he travels with a circus and makes a living by helping the lion tamer with his show.  Unfortunately, the one bad thing about living on the road is that he never has time to make any friends his own age.  During one particular stop, Fizzlebert finds a library book and attempts to return it himself, not knowing that this trip would change his life forever.

The best thing about this book is its pure outlandishness.  Most kids have joined a library, but who would ever think of running away from the circus?  My favorite part was when Fizzlebert’s mother and father, a circus clown and a strongman, venture out in town to look for their lost son.  Since I don’t want to spoil this great story you’ll have to read it yourself, so run down to your local library (or circus) and pick up a copy!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Kim, by Rudyard Kipling

Kimball O’Hara is the orphaned son of an Irish soldier whose mother died in poverty.  As a street urchin in British India, Kim survives by begging and running small errands for shopkeepers.  Through a local horse trader, Kim inadvertently becomes involved with ferrying information for the British secret service.  When Kim enters into the service of a holy lama on a path to enlightenment, his travels take him across the length and breadth of India.

“Kim” might be somewhat difficult to read at first, what with the period language and the historical setting, but it’s definitely worth your time.  This is the type of adventure that every boy dreams of having, and I can’t think of any place more diverse and challenging than India.  Even as an orphan in a country with a billion other people, Kim never seems to lose his nerve.  “Kim” is a classic adventure novel that’s well-deserving of a spot on your reading list.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Adventures of Captain Underpants, by Dav Pilkey

Look there, in the sky!  It’s a fat, bald man wearing nothing but underwear and a cape!  Tra la laaaaaa!  It must be Captain Underpants!  There’s no other superhero quite like him, and honestly that’s not a bad thing.  Two troublesome boys, George Beard and Harold Hutchins, mistakenly hypnotized their school principal so now when they snap their fingers, Mr. Krupp suddenly finds himself transformed into the hero of their homemade comic books!

If this sounds like a crazy plot then believe me, we’re only getting started.  Each book in the series seems to raise the bar for outrageousness and third-grade humor.  Combined with the hilarious cartoons and the action-packed fight scenes (in Flip-o-Rama!), each installment in the Captain Underpants saga will have boys flying through the pages with laughter.  These books are the perfect choice for a reluctant reader ages six to sixty!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak

This book is arguably the most famous picture book of all time, so there was no way that I’d consider leaving it off my list!  When a naughty, misbehaving boy named Max gets sent to bed with no dinner, he wishes himself off to a magical land where the creatures are just and nasty and wild as he is.  The beasts stomp and roar happily in a wild circus…at least until Max starts to feel the slightest bit homesick!

This book is over fifty years old now, and it remains one of the best-selling picture books of all time.  It might sound silly, but “Where the Wild Things Are” was actually banned from several school libraries because parents feared it might encourage their kids to misbehave!  Thankfully cooler heads have prevailed, and now it’d be nearly impossible to miss a copy of this book.  Check one out if you haven’t already…it’s the perfect book for the wild things in your life!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Bully of Barkham Street, by Mary Stolz

Nearly everyone’s had a run-in with a bully at some point in their lives, but how many of us have ever stopped to think about why these kids behave this way?  Mary Stolz’ classic book forces the reader to do just that by telling the story of a frustrated boy named Martin Hastings.  Beneath the gruff, thoughtless exterior is a chubby boy who’s actually a little bit lonely himself.  Acting out is a way for him to get attention, and inevitably Martin comes into conflict with his next-door neighbor, Edward Frost.  This book is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, albeit someone that you might not necessarily like…at least not at first!

One great thing about “The Bully of Barkham Street” is that it’s actually a companion novel to another book called “A Dog on Barkham Street”.  This book was published a few years earlier, and it tells the same events through Edward Frost’s point of view.   I’d recommend reading both books, but no matter which you read first you’ll be able to see the conflict from both boys’ points of view.  Apparently, boys will be boys no matter the decade.  If you’re looking for some great insight into the way boys think, look no further than the Barkham Street books!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Holes, by Louis Sachar

Stanley Yelnats is a teenage boy from a poor but hard-working family of farmers.  The family blames their continual bad luck on a curse of bad luck set in motion by his pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather, and the latest example of this comes when Stanley is wrongfully accused of stealing a priceless pair of shoes.  Stanley is sentenced to a period of hard labor, digging precisely-measured holes in the ground at a prison camp.  Over time, Stanley discovers that he and the rest of the inmates aren’t just digging as punishment, but rather searching for something…

Besides the fact that this book is such a great story, one other reason for its phenomenal success is that it’s just plain fun!  Yes, Stanley’s last name is his first spelled backwards, and that’s just one of the small details buried within this book for careful readers to find.  The supporting cast is just plain hilarious, and it’s no wonder that Disney decided to make “Holes” into a film.

If you’re looking for a modern classic that will have boys howling with laughter as they fly through the pages, look no further than “Holes”.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Marvelous Inventions of Alvin Fernald, by Clifford B. Hicks

Since 1960, boys and girls alike have enjoyed reading about the adventures of Alvin Fernald and his Magnificent Brain.  Whenever his brain clicks into action, a glassy stare comes into Alvin’s eyes and not even his troublesome sister, lovingly known as “The Pest”, can distract him from his work.  Whether it’s creating the Foolproof Burglar Alarm for his bedroom door or developing the Sure Shot Paper Slinger for delivering newspapers from his bike, Alvin is always in search of another marvelous invention.  In this book, the first in the series, a set of mysterious circumstances surrounding the Old Huntley Place is all the inspiration that Alvin needs for his sleuthing.

The Alvin Fernald books were already modern classics when I discovered them as a child, and although they might be slightly hard to find they are actually still in print today!  The author, Clifford B. Hicks, also served as an editor for Popular Mechanics magazine, so one neat feature of these books is that all of Alvin’s creations are actually realistic!  Based on the descriptions in the stories, a tinkering reader can easily re-create some of the inventions within.  Mr. Hicks seemed to know both the inner workings of machines, as well as young boys’ brains, which makes these books such enduring stories today.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Hardy Boys, by Franklin W. Dixon

Frank and Joe Hardy are a pair of teenage brothers and amateur detectives.  When they’re not attending high school in the city of Bayport, they often find themselves entangled in any number of local mysteries.  Whether they solve one of the confidential case files that their father (a detective) is working on, or they accidentally stumble across a villain’s concealed activities, action and adventure seem to seek out the Hardy Boys. 

One fun fact is that while the “Hardy Boys” series is supposedly authored by someone called Franklin W. Dixon, all of the books were actually created by ghostwriters.  There have been over 200 books added to the series over the past century, so it’s very easy to pick one up at random and dive in.  Each book is a self-contained novel, so you don’t have to start with any particular book like you would with “Harry Potter” or “Lord of the Rings.”

The Hardy Boys are the type of teenagers that every boy dreams of being, so it’s no wonder that their popularity has endured for so long.  Over a million of these books are still sold each year, so I’m betting you’ll find it easy to put your hands on a copy!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt

Tired of her family, ten-year old Winnie Foster starts to consider running away from home.   One day, during a walk in the woods, she meets a teenage boy named Jesse Tuck.   Jesse and his family lead her deeper into her family’s land, where a magical spring puts forth water which has granted them eternal life.  As Winnie begins to find herself falling in love with Jessie, she becomes sorely tempted to drink the water herself.  All the while, a mysterious stranger from the Tucks’ past is following, offering a temptation of an entirely different sort…

This book was written in 1975 and I originally read it as part of a grade school curriculum, but I was amazed to find that the story is just as good today.  The theme is very thought provoking:  would eternal life be a blessing, or a curse?   “Tuck Everlasting” is a suspenseful page-turner, and well worth the time that any young man would spend reading it.    

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

This story centers around the life of Liesel Meinger, a nine-year-old girl living in Germany during World War II.  After her brother dies, Liesel is taken in by a set of foster parents who’re also hiding a Jewish man from the Nazis.  This man, Max, teaches Liesel to read in secret.   Entranced with the power of the written word, Liesel begins to steal a number of banned books in order to save them from being burned by German censors.

Even though the hero of this book is a girl, I’d flag it as a must-read for all young men.  While Anne Frank’s diary might provide a more intimate view of what it was like to hide from the Nazis, I found “The Book Thief” to be a more accessible story.  The book is narrated by Death himself (who remarks that World War II was a very busy time for him), so it’s actually very easy to take a peek into these characters’ challenging lives.  “The Book Thief” has definitely earned my highest recommendation.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson

When an old sailor calling himself “Billy Bones” comes to lodge at the Admiral Benbow Inn, he pays the innkeeper’s son Jim Hawkins a few pennies to be particularly watchful of strangers.  After a visit from some mysterious men Billy dies suddenly, leaving Jim and his parents to open his sea chest and examine the contents.  They find some money, a journal and a map, which presumably leads to a cache of buried treasure.  With thoughts of gold doubloons, Mr. Hawkins’ friends start equipping a ship for the voyage…complete with Jim as the cabin boy, and a shady crew led by a one-legged cook named Long John Silver.

This book has everything:  mutiny on the high seas, bloodthirsty pirates and buried treasure.  It’s the ultimate work of escapist literature for boys, and it was pleasantly fulfilling to learn that the author spent his share of time on tropical isles.  For five years until his death in 1894, Robert Louis Stevenson lived with his family on the Pacific island of Samoa.  Mr. Stevenson was one of the best-selling authors of the 19th century, and it’s easy to see why as his writing still inspires adventurers today.  “Treasure Island” is a must-read for boys, and a must-re-read for young men of all ages.     

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Melvin Beederman, Superhero, by Greg Trine

Melvin Beederman is a brand-new superhero, fresh out of training.  His first assignment takes him to the city of Los Angeles, which hasn’t had a superhero since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar retired.   In a dry-cleaning mishap and epic wardrobe malfunction, Melvin’s powerful cape accidentally finds its way to a third-grade girl named Candace Brinkwater.  Even though Candace and Melvin end up sharing some of the same superpowers, they both still have one weakness… bologna.  Will the evil McNasty Boys be able to exploit this weakness and continue their crime spree?  You’ll just have to read the books to find out!

There are eight books in the Melvin Beederman series, and I’d bet that all of them are as funny as the first.  If you’re looking for a smart new superhero, then Melvin’s your man.  The hilarious illustrations by Rhode Montijo are the icing on the cake, and I’d recommend these books to any boy who’s ever been tempted to wear his underpants on the outside!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Ultimate Ending series, by Danny McAleese

One of my most popular posts on this blog was about the classic “Choose Your Own Adventure” series, which have been a favorite choice for millions of boys over the past thirty years.  I think it’s clear that today’s generation has another new favorite on its hands with the “Ultimate Ending” series of books by up-and-coming author Danny McAleese.

The first book in the series, “Treasures of the Forgotten City”, will have you searching for the ruins of the lost city of Atraharsis, using only your wits and a cryptic journal left behind by your grand-uncle.  Danger awaits at every turn, and it’s up to you to find the fabled star gems by uncovering the clues within each riddle.  The second book in the series, “The House on Hollow Hill”, is set in an allegedly haunted house scheduled for demolition.  Will you and your friends survive the former occupants’ ghastly tricks, or will the house’s secrets remain lost forever?

Both of these books are very fast-paced, and boys young and old will appreciate the adventurous settings.  As I write this post there are already six books in the “Ultimate Ending” series, and I’m sure Mr. McAleese is hard at work on a number of sequels.  I actually read “Treasures of the Forgotten City” as an e-book, and one neat feature was the fact that I could quickly tab backwards if I made a mistake.  (I’m not giving away any spoilers but yes, there are a number of fatal traps and other ends in these books!)

If you’re looking to turn a reluctant reader on to the next big thing, then I’d definitely recommend the “Ultimate Ending” series.  With their short, action-packed chapters, one of these books will be like a condensed Dan Brown novel for kids!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Challenger Deep, by Neal Schusterman

Caden Bosch is a young man suffering from mental illness.  In one world, he’s a brilliant high school student and a natural athlete who’s starting to display some unusual behavior.  In his mind, he’s actually an artist-in-residence on an exploration ship heading towards the deepest point on Earth.  As Caden quickly descends into his illusions, his mind becomes split between worlds, unable to tell which is real.

As I read this book I noticed that a lot of the “Challenger Deep” narratives didn’t seem to make sense to me, which was probably the author’s intention.  For people suffering from mental illness, their hallucinations or visions would probably only seem reasonable to themselves.  Even though it was a struggle to follow everything that went on in this alternate reality, I greatly appreciated having the chance to peek inside Caden’s mind.  By the end of the book I was actually rooting for him, hoping he could overcome the struggle of his split worlds.

One of my favorite parts, though, was the way that Mr. Shusterman seemed to humanize those with mental illness.  By having Caden stay in a home with others in the same condition, he changed from a mentally ill kid to just one of many mentally ill kids.  I think it’s important to remember that even though we might not personally know someone in this condition, there’s a small but significant slice of the population who battle with mental illness.  This book is sensitive yet powerful, and it will cause you to take another look at the world around you.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Maus, by Art Spiegelman

I’ll start this review by saying that “Maus” is definitely not a book for boys, but it may be a hit with young men who’re ready for something different.   This is a graphic novel created by cartoonist Art Speigelman, which tells the story of his father Vladek’s experiences as a survivor of the Holocaust.  Although the story jumps back and forth from the present to the buildup of World War II, the interview format makes it very easy for the reader to identify with Vladek.  It’s hard for us to comprehend how over six million Jews died during the holocaust, because so many individual lives quickly become nothing more than a statistic.  By writing “Maus” as a graphic novel, however, Spiegelman allows the reader more insight into the lives which were lost, and also a look at the many survivors who were tragically scarred.

One unique method that Spiegelman used was to depict his characters as animals.  The Jewish victims are seen as mice, the Nazis as cats, and the American GIs are shown as dogs.  By using cartoonish animals as the actors in this human tragedy, Spiegelman lightens the weight of mass murder enough to keep the reader from feeling overwhelmed.  Even though this book is technically considered a graphic novel, it’s actually a powerful memoir that will leave the reader changed by the end of Volume 2.

I absolutely loved Maus, and it’s one of those classics that I keep at the front of my own bookshelf at home.  Again, it’s probably not the best choice for younger boys due to the mature themes, but it’s an absolute must-read for anyone old enough to study the Holocaust.  

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Bagels from Benny, by Aubrey Davis

Benny loves to help out at his Grandpa’s bakery, and the customers love the crusty bagels with their soft insides.  When Grandpa explains to Benny that God, not him, should be thanked for the wonderful bagels, Benny decides to do just that.  After some thought, he leaves God a bagful of bagels in the synagogue each week.  Miraculously, it appears that God is actually eating the bagels…or is He?

This picture book is an awesome story of gratitude and sharing.  It’s hard to review a book so short without giving away the ending, but I’ll do my best since it’s such a powerful story.  I loved the way that both Benny and his Grandpa discovered a way to help others through their work, and I think it’s important to remember just how much a simple thing like food can mean to someone in need.    

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Monster, by Walter Dean Myers

Sixteen year-old Steve Harmon is a young man who loves making films, and he’s actually starring in his latest production.  It’s the story of how he became involved in a robbery plot that went bad, and resulted in the death of an innocent shopkeeper.  Steve is now sitting in the courtroom, on trial and facing a possible life sentence.  The scariest part of Steve’s movie?  The story is all happening in real life.

One of the best things about this book is the creative format.  By presenting the story as a screenplay rather than as a traditional novel, we get a much better insight into how Steve views the world.  It’s almost as if the stress of being on trial for his life has caused Steve to step out of his body, and now he analyzes the proceedings with all the excitement of a dispassionate bystander. 

SPOILER:  Another thing that I appreciated was the fact that Mr. Myers never really told us whether or not Steve was truly innocent.  That was a very interesting plot device, since I found myself feeling sympathy for a young man who may very well have played a crucial role in this murder.  “Monster” is a highly-charged but thoughtful read, and I’d be very happy to recommend it.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Fat Boy Chronicles, by Diane Lang and Michael Buchanan

Jimmy Winterpock always gets teased by the football team for being fat.  He’s not just a little overweight, mind you, but just plain fat.  Thanks to a writing journal kept for his English class, we get to follow along over the course of the school year as Jimmy works to slim down with healthy lifestyle changes.  Jimmy is thrilled to see the changes in his body, and along the way he discovers that nearly all of his school friends have some kind of personal problems as well.

Even though this book seems to be focused on Jimmy’s personal struggle with obesity, I found myself even more sympathetic to the other kids at his school.  Adolescence is hard enough by itself, but you’re really creating a recipe for disaster when you add in other risks like abusive parents, depression or learning disabilities.  Although this book is clearly categorized as “young adult” due to its mature themes, I’d actually recommend it for parents as well.  Jimmy’s journal provides a window into the mind of a teenager, and the issues they could be silently struggling with.   

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Tangerine, by Edward Bloor

Paul Fisher is a visually impaired young man best known for his unique goggles.  Despite his impairment, he’s a natural athlete and a great soccer goalie.  When he moves to Florida and a sinkhole destroys half of his new school, the students are given the choice of busing to the town’s other public school, Tangerine Middle.  Paul sees this as his chance to finally make the starting team, so he starts all over again as the new kid…twice in the same year!

Even though Tangerine Middle seemed like a rough place, this book didn’t contain any graphic descriptions of violence so I’d say it’s fine for middle grade readers.  In fact, I’d think that it would be a very helpful book for anyone who’s feeling anxious about an upcoming change in schools.  After everything that Paul goes through, the challenge of starting all over would seem small in comparison!

One of the best things about this book is the way that Mr. Bloor peels back the shiny veneer of the state of Florida, a place most of us associate with theme parks and holiday destinations, to show that there are real people with real problems here as well.  “Tangerine” was the first book I’ve read from this talented writer, but it will definitely not be my last.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Okay for Now, by Gary D. Schmidt

Doug Swieteck is a fourteen-year old who just moved to a new town.  With no friends and a lousy family, it seems as if the entire world is stacked up against him, at least until he meets Lil Spicer.  Lil is a fiery young lady who turns Doug on to his local library, a place of solitude of Doug’s otherwise stormy life.  As Doug discovers the joy of drawing, he works to integrate himself into the social web of small-town New York.

Even though Doug has his share of challenges to overcome, including a dysfunctional family, an abusive father, brushes with the law and a brother deployed to Vietnam, this is hardly an “issue” book.  Rather, Mr. Schmidt focuses more on Doug’s passion for drawing, and how having a creative outlet helps him manage all these stressors.  Drawing initially helps Doug escape from his troubled world, but later he uses his talents to begin healing it. 

This is a particularly raw, real story, and I appreciate the no-nonsense manner in which Mr. Schmidt told it.  I wouldn’t recommend the book for any young men under 14 or 15, but it’s a must-read for anyone old enough to handle to mature themes.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Good Boy, Fergus, by David Shannon

Meet Fergus, the Scottie dog who takes disobedience to a whole new level.  This book follows him through a perfect doggy day, from chasing cats and motorcycles to being scratched on his favorite spot.  Even though Fergus has a mind of his own, he’s a perfect angel in the mind of his owners.  There’s nothing he could do that would make him anything but a “good dog!”

This picture book features very few words, and Mr. Shannon chooses to tell the real story through his hilarious illustrations.  Our kids found themselves cracking up at these situations, since they were old enough to know what was really expected of a “good dog”.  This book quickly became one of our favorites, destined to be read again and again.  

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Homer Price, by Robert McCloskey

Homer Price is a mild-mannered boy who lives in the sleepy town of Centerburg.  Somehow, he continues to get himself involved in the most outrageous incidents, like the time when a donut-making machine ran out of control.  Even worse was the time when Homer came face-to-face with his comic book hero, the Super-Duper, and he realizes that….well, I’ll let you read this one for yourself!

Homer Price was written in 1943 so the environment might seem a little dated, although the characters are genuine and will still resonate today.  Boys will be boys, no matter the century.  Homer Price is a hilarious book for middle-grade readers, one that I’d even be willing to recommend to a girl!  

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot, by Dav Pilkey

This is the story of Ricky Ricotta, a lonely little mouse who befriends a mysterious giant robot.   The robot helps Ricky with his homework, stands up to the school bullies, and even saves the world by battling the evil Doctor Stinky McNasty!  Using an amazing graphic novel format, even the most reluctant reader will find himself whizzing through the chapters.

 Some of you might already be familiar with Mr. Pilkey’s work from his epic series, Captain Underpants.  The Ricky Ricotta series features his same brand of unique humor, although slightly turned down for younger readers.  First- and second-grade boys would probably love the juxtaposition of a tiny mouse teamed with a giant robot….at least, I sure did! 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen

Brian Robeson is a thirteen-year-old boy, the son of divorced parents.  While traveling through Canada on a Cessna plane to meet his father for the summer, the pilot suffers a massive heart attack and dies.  Brian survives a crash-landing in the forest, leaving him stranded on his own with nothing to help him survive…except for a single hatchet.

“Hatchet” is a fast-paced adventure story which is considered to be one of today’s must-read books for young men, although I’m ashamed to say I never read it before now.  It’s a fast-paced story in which a seemingly endless series of challenges are thrown at Brian, one after another.  In fact, the only thing I really didn’t care for with this book was the way that it all seemed so unfair!  After surviving a traumatic plane crash, you’d think the last thing Brian would have to worry about would be dying from starvation or exposure!

Mr. Paulsen’s book proved so popular that he went on to write another four books in the “Hatchet” series, which collectively became known as “Brian’s Saga”.  I’m planning to move on to the first sequel in the series soon, if only to find out what kind of adventures Brian will be thrown into next.  Even though it never seems fair when it’s the entire world against one boy, these hopeless situations sure make for a great story!  “Hatchet” gets my strongest recommendation, so be sure to pick up your copy today.    

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life, by Wendy Mass

Only one month before his thirteenth birthday, Jeremy Fink and his best friend Lizzy Muldoun receive a mysterious package in the mail.  The box is from Jeremy’s deceased father, and it contains a mysterious wooden box with four keyholes.  Determined to open the box, Jeremy and Lizzy set a goal to find all four of the lost keys during their summer vacation.  Their quest immediately runs into an obstacle when they run afoul of the law, and are required to complete a period of community service working with the mysterious Mr. Oswald.  As Jeremy’s birthday approaches fast, he begins to wonder if he’ll ever be able to open the box and discover the meaning of life.

One of the most remarkable things about this book is the amount of effort that Jeremy’s dad put into his project.  The plot follows a well-planned script that Mr. Fink laid out before he died, which includes major roles for many of his family friends and business partners.  It quickly becomes apparent that Mr. Fink was a devoted father, and he wanted to maintain a strong presence in Jeremy’s life even if he passed away.

I’m not going to spoil the ending by giving away the secret of life but yes, Jeremy does finally manage to open the box.  Even though the project of tracking down the missing keys tests his patience and resolve, it ends up being a great way for him to learn more about his father.  Do you ever wish that you had the opportunity to get to know a family member who’s passed away?