In 1895, 11-year-old Stanley Slater and his mother must move to a logging camp for her job. Now he has to live with his grandmother—who is 99.9 percent evil—and put up with his cousin Geri.
In between braving Geri’s diagnoses (she wants to be a doctor), speculating on the speckled past of a logger named Stinky Pete and begging to accompany the lumberjacks on a dangerous river drive, Stanley composes imaginary letters from his missing father, detailing the crazy adventures that keep him from his son. Stanley’s convinced that if he can just be manly enough, he can find his father and preserve his family. But being manly turns out to be harder than it looks.
The hilarious antics that Stanley describes (one memorable incident involves Geri, an uncooked chicken and sewing supplies) make My Near-Death Adventures a laugh-out-loud book. But what truly stands out are the black-and-white images of vintage magazine ads, postcards and other documents that Stanley pastes into his scrapbook and annotates with amusing, perceptive comments.
This is a rare combination of historical fiction, collage illustration and, in the end, depth of character.
Jill Ratzan teaches research rudiments in central New Jersey.