Reviews for Crunch


Booklist Reviews 2010 April #1
It's crunch time for the Mariss family. When a critical national fuel shortage strands their vacationing parents far from home, it's up to Dewey (14) and older sister Lil (18) to serve as surrogate parents to their three younger siblings. Dewey draws double duty, however, because he must also manage the family's bike-repair shop, and as people have no choice but to rely on bikes for transportation, business is booming. This is mostly manageable until someone throws a figurative sprocket wrench into the spokes by stealing from the shop's inventory! Is it the creepy old geezer who lives next door? Or maybe the nice young man who's befriended the family? Or . . . ? Well, it's a mystery, for sure, but clever Dewey contrives a plan to discover the culprit. The element of uncertainty keeps the pages turning while Connor addresses a timely issue--America's dependence on fossil fuels--that will provoke classroom discussion and invite further reading. Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

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BookPage Reviews 2010 May
Helping out in a crunch

During the second week of July, there isn’t just a fuel shortage. (“Short-age would mean there wasn’t enough. Instead, there wasn’t any.”) And it’s not just in small-town Rocky Shores, where 14-year-old Dewey Marriss lives, but it’s all across the country; it’s a crunch. Since his mother and his truck driver father are away celebrating their anniversary—stuck near the Canadian border without any diesel—it’s up to Dewey and his older sister to be the “embodiment of responsibility” for three younger siblings on their small farm.

At first Dewey relishes managing his father’s side business, the Marriss Bike Barn, until the greater demand for bicycles and repairs becomes more than he can keep up with. Although he hasn’t been meticulous about recording inventory, he’s certain that someone has been pilfering bike parts. He doesn’t want to suspect his next-door neighbor, who’s already in the habit of helping himself to eggs and berries, or Robert, the out-of-work, recent college grad, who likes to help out in the bike shop, but times are now strange and anyone could be to blame.

As the highways have cleared, leaving quiet walkers and bikers traveling down the once busy lanes, a new value system emerges in which bikes are stolen, prices skyrocket, shoppers hoard what little remains on the shelves, businesses aren’t hiring and holders of precious gas ration cards are assaulted and robbed. Amidst the tough times, Dewey also observes how the crunch has brought out the best in neighbors and small business owners, as they rally together to help the community.

The clever teen applies his dad’s “list of the Eight Rules That Apply to Fixing Almost Anything” to running the bike shop, and also to directing the camaraderie of his family, friends and neighbors. The Mariss’s teamwork and quirky lifestyle make readers want to join along as they play, laugh and dine on clam chowder after a busy yet rewarding day on the farm. This delightful mystery and commentary on possible global crises will inspire children to hop on their bikes and find ways to save the planet.

Angela Leeper wishes she could ride her bike to her job at the University of Richmond.

Copyright 2010 BookPage Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2010 Fall
When a severe fuel shortage strands their parents, the five Marriss children hold down the fort--and the family's bike business. With fewer cars on the highway, the now-growing shop is about to overrun the kids' abilities. Connor's narrative ambles pleasantly along; a feel-good denouement brings the community together, with neighbors willing to learn how to help themselves and others. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2010 #4
With their parents stuck up north because of a severe fuel shortage-"pumps are dry clear across the country"-the five Marriss children must hold down the fort at home. At first, they're just keeping on keeping on, with each day seeming like the one before: fourteen-year-old narrator Dewey takes the five-year-old twins to summer camp each day, allowing older sister Lil to attend art school, then Dewey and thirteen-year-old Vince make the few simple repairs for the family's sideline bike business. But soon the days change dramatically. At first there are fewer trucks and cars on the highway; then there are none. Grocery store shelves empty out; a few petty thefts occur; and the now-growing bike business is about to overrun the Marriss boys' abilities, time, and supplies. Overwhelmed, Dewey changes from a happy-go-lucky kid to a Type A personality. But in Connor's ultimately upbeat novel, this element of discord is short-lived. Like a pleasant bicycle jaunt during the lazy days of summer, the narrative ambles along, providing a glimpse of the literary countryside of mystery, speculative fiction, social commentary, and character development, but never stopping very long at any one spot. A feel-good denouement, as spectacular as a Busby Berkeley musical finale, brings the small community together, neighbors willing to learn how to help themselves and others, and, finally, even the return home of Mom and Dad. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2010 April #2
Readers are thrust immediately into the trials and tribulations of 14-year-old Dewey Mariss and his family. His parents are away from home, unable to return because of a gasoline shortage. Running their small family business, the Bike Barn, with his younger brother and helping older sister Lil look after the five-year-old twins keeps Dewey plenty busy, especially since the shortage means that more people are depending on their bicycles. Throw in a sneaky thief, a cranky neighbor, some miscellaneous farm animals and a few minor adventures, and there's plenty to fill the 300-plus pages. Connor keeps things moving merrily along, however, and readers will enjoy going along for the (brisk) ride. Characters are colorful but believable, dialogue crisp and amusing. The New England setting is attractively realized, and the underlying energy crisis treated seriously but not sensationally. Perhaps things wrap up a mite too tidily, but Dewey deserves a break, and the whole family is so engaging that anything less than the happy ending would be disappointing indeed. Charming and original. (Fiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2010 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Media Connection Reviews 2010 November/December
Throughout this wholesome story, the main character, Dewey, handles himself with integrity as he runs the family bike repair business without his parents. Dewey and his siblings handle all the responsibilities of home and business during a severe gas shortage. No gas means his parents are stranded in parts north and cannot return home. No gas also means folks are bringing out their bicycles; more bikes equal more bike repairs. After hiring a very nice stranger to help out, things begin to disappear. The police get involved and although the mystery is secondary, it adds some great tension to the plot. Reminiscent of Hoot by Carl Hiaasen (Alfred A. Knopf (Random House), 2002), this book will have wide appeal not just for the environmental storyline, but for the fresh-faced family of seven who have a mother and father and no teen angst. Award winning author Leslie Connor has created another winner in this slightly humorous look at family dynamics during a crisis! Highly Recommended. Roxanne Mills, Educational Reviewer, Smithfield, Virginia ¬ 2010 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2010 May

Gr 5-8--Mom and Dad take an annual anniversary drive up the New England coast for a week, and this year, they let 18-year-old Lil and 14-year-old Dewey hold down the fort while they're gone. In an all-too-plausible scenario, though, the national fuel shortage hits crunch level, and there is no gasoline to be had. For the first several days that their parents are stranded near the Canadian border, nobody panics: the older kids get the five-year-old twins to summer camp each day, and Dewey and his younger brother, Vince, keep their dad's bicycle-repair shop running smoothly. But when cars can't run, the townspeople rely on bikes, and as days turn into weeks, Dewey is overwhelmed with the number of repairs coming in and with the parental responsibilities that he and Lil are sharing. And when parts start disappearing and it becomes evident that a petty thief is on the loose, things get even more complicated. Not wanting to worry their parents or admit that they are in over their heads, Dewey and Lil initially resist efforts by neighbors to help. It is only when things reach the breaking point that they both come to realize that there is no shame in trusting in others. While Connor has created a cast of quirky characters and a timely dilemma, she never fully engages readers the way she did in Waiting for Normal (HarperCollins, 2008). Even with Dewey's first-person narration, relationships come across as a little too good to be true, and the story never quite loses a subtle hint of didacticism.--Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA

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