BookPage Top Pick in Children's, starred review, February 2019
The players, the wicket, the boundary—the sport of cricket was not what Carter Jones was expecting to learn during his first year in middle school in New York. However, Carter gets a lot more than he bargained for in Newbery Honor-winning author Gary D. Schmidt’s Pay Attention, Carter Jones.
Aside from learning cricket, Carter also has to deal with his father getting deployed (again), his three whiny sisters, a dachshund that throws up every time anything exciting happens—and then there’s a surprise English butler. Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick’s arrival to the Jones’ household may have been unexpected, but his continuing presence is just plain weird. Paid for by an endowment from Carter’s grandfather, Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick decides that life must change for Young Master Jones. The butler encourages Carter to walk the dog every day, to “pay attention” while learning the beautiful sport of cricket and to confront a truth he refuses to face. Life with Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick means nothing will be the same.
With Schmidt’s characteristic humor and realistically flawed characters who are tested by heavy, life-changing realities, Pay Attention, Carter Jones is simultaneously hilarious and heart-wrenching. As fantastical as Carter’s situation seems, he is also very real, and anyone who has struggled with the loss of a parent or the realities of growing up will find themselves in this story.