BookPage Children's Top Pick, November 2018
Ten-year-old Caleb Franklin longs to be anything but ordinary, which feels impossible in his quiet hometown of Sutton, Indiana. But one night, Caleb and his 11-year-old brother, Bobby Gene, trade their toddler sister, Susie, for a large bag of fireworks.
Never fear—their mom soon retrieves little Susie, but the boys manage to keep the fireworks. Their summer really ignites when the brothers meet an older teen in foster care named Styx Malone, who hatches a plan to help the boys repeatedly “trade up” their loot—with the goal of eventually buying a moped—in what he calls a “Great Escalator Trade.”
Award-winning author Kekla Magoon’s The Season of Styx Malone is an old-fashioned summer adventure and coming-of-age story that ever so gently touches on the racial prejudice faced by its three African-American protagonists.
Caleb and his brother live in a parent-protected bubble that they’re more than ready to burst, and their mom dismisses Styx as “a handful of trouble.” But to Caleb, this smooth-talking, deal-making newcomer represents everything he feels he’s missing in his small town.
But as the three boys’ adventures multiply, they also become more dangerous and questionable. The boys are soon stowing away on trains and stealing a motor from an auto parts warehouse. Still mesmerized by Styx, Caleb begins to wonder about his friend’s motives and deeds, noticing that “Styx made it sound like breaking the rules wasn’t really so bad as long as you didn’t get caught.”
As the boys’ secretive exploits build toward an inevitable climax, readers will enjoy being part of Magoon’s thoughtful novel about the pleasures and constraints of friendship, family, trust and betrayal.