Float by Laura Martin is a Fantastic middle grade chapter book. We read it aloud as a family. Here's our review:
We love this book! I mentioned Float by Laura Martin here at the beginning of the summer, but as summer's end is rapidly approaching, I wanted to bring it up one more time. It's just so good and I don't want anyone to miss out on all the fun.
Float by Laura Martin is about Emerson, a 12 year old boy, who is being sent to a government mandated camp for RISK kids. Emerson has a RISK (Reoccurring Incidents of the Strange Kind) factor that causes him to float, uncontrollably. He's also afraid of heights, which only further complicates his RISK factor.
His whole life, Emerson has felt radically different and also lived with a lot of anxiety. What if his weighted vest comes off and he floats to the top of the school and they have to call the firetruck to get him down? Even worse, what if he floats away outside and can't be rescued? Plus, he worries about his mom and the burden that his RISK factor is for her.
When Emerson finds out he's being forced to attend a summer camp in the Michigan wilderness with a bunch of other RISK factor kids, he's even more unhappy. He feels most comfortable playing video games alone in his room. Government mandated summer camp, even if it is with RISK kids, sounds like torture.
The book opens with Emerson plotting ways to escape from the summer camp parking lot. But, spoiler alert, he ends up in summer camp. Luckily, it's not quite the torture he imagined. In fact, it's the best summer of his life, even if he does have to go way outside of his comfort zone.
But there's a cloud over some of that summer camp fun. Emerson makes a lot of new friends with a lot of uncontrollable RISK factors - inconvenient invisibility, spontaneous combustion, unstickable stickiness, etc. - but one of them has a dangerous RISK factor that could affect everyone's future. It's a problem that requires a lot of heroism, action, and suspense and it will keep you on the edge of your seat.
It took us less than a week to read this aloud as a family because we had a hard time putting it down every night. And when we did finish, we immediately declared it a Family Favorite for our Forever Library.
Why We Love Float by Laura Martin
This book is a fantastic read for so many reasons!
- First, there's the good old fashioned summer camp fun. It brought back all my favorite summer camp memories and made my kids beg to go to summer camp too. There are s'mores and fireside chats and a little bit of all-in-good-fun hazing. The latrines have to be scrubbed, there are canoes to adventure in, and all the funny letters home. You know, summer camp fun.
- Second, there's the fantasy element that takes an ordinary summer camp to the next level. It mostly reads like realistic fiction, but the fantasy twist - the uncontrollable RISK factors - makes the story extraordinary.
- Third, it's the perfect blend of humor, mystery, and action-packed adventure. I read this aloud with my kids and there was a lot of laughing and a lot of anticipation. It was a book that we kept talking about long after we closed it every night. "What's going to happen next?!" was the question we all asked every night. It will keep you guessing right up to the very end!
- Fourth, it's full of heart and inspiration. I love that there are people like Laura Martin who can write middle grade books for kids that still inspire 36 year old me to chase my own dreams a little harder.
- And finally, it's so well crafted. There's big imagination in this book and the writing is so well done. It's just a pleasure to read, from cover to cover.
One of my favorite parts of the book is the author's note at the end. Several of the wild stories in the book, Laura Martin explains, were inspired by the stories she grew up hearing about her own father's childhood escapades. It's so fun to find out which crazy tales from Float actually happened!
Then, Martin gives her own advice about ideas and dreams and living the good life:
So my advice to young writers is simple - go live a great big life, and then write about it. And remember, some of the best things happen outside your comfort zone. It's a lesson that takes Emerson almost the entire book to figure out."
And that sums up the heart of the whole book for me. It's a book about living a big life and stepping out of your comfort zone to do hard things. Our family motto is "We Can Do Hard Things," so this resonated with all of us. It was a FIVE STAR read for our family!
There isn't, of course, any requirement that says you must read this book during summer months, but it does take place at a summer camp so now is a great time. Then again, you could save it until the darkest days of January when you miss the sunshine so much you can't hardly stand it anymore. Float, with all of it's nostalgic summer camp fun, would be a perfect antidote to a dreary winter day.
I received an Advanced Reader Copy of Float from the author, but all opinions are entirely my own.