The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher #MiddleGrade #KidLit

Recently, my family met the Fletchers, the fictional stars of Dana Alison Levy’s middle grade novel, The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher, which I read aloud to my daughters as we waited for the school bus. The Fletcher family consists of two dads, Jason and Tom, and four boys of diverse racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds named Sam, Jax, Eli, and Frog (short for Bull Frog, AKA Jeremiah). The Fletchers are different from my family in some ways, but we can relate to many of their daily triumphs and tribulations, such as dealing with awkward questions and rude stares.

Here’s an example from Chapter Five:

In the seats, dozens of grown-ups stared blankly at the Fletchers….

Papa stepped forward, smiling. “I’m Jason Fletcher—please call me Jason. And this is my husband, Tom Anderson.”

Dad reached out his hand, also smiling. They had been through this many times, Eli knew… [He] stared at his spotless desk, his face burning. He wasn’t embarrassed about his family—it wasn’t that. It was just… there were so many of them. And so many boys. He knew the questions were coming.

[…]

“Are those guys all your brothers? How old are they?” Griffin said. […] “You guys don’t look anything alike.”

[…]

“We’re all adopted,” Eli said, edging toward Dad, who was reading the compositions taped to the wall. Eli hoped that the questions would stop now. But before he walked away, he heard Mika say, in a loud whisper, “Why do they have two dads? Don’t they have a mom?”

It was apparently loud enough for Frog to hear too, and before Eli could answer, Frog spoke up. “Of course we had moms! Don’t you even know how babies are made? It takes a man and a woman, and the egg meets the—”

Our family’s situation is different, but we know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of insensitive interrogations because some people don’t understand how our mixed-race family “belongs” together, a topic I explored with my twins in our middle grade novel, Anusha of Prospect Corner.

Like 6-year-old Frog Fletcher, who responds to Mika’s question with a reproductive biology lesson, our Sri Lankan-American Anusha Smyth addresses the ignorance she encounters about where her red hair “comes from” with a science-based answer, a similarity my twins noted as we read Chapter Five together.

We spent time discussing the chapter, in part because it provided a piece of evidence that contributed to my kids’ understanding of the time period of the book. They had been confused about the time period because one of the Fletcher boys had considered taking a paper-route, an old-fashioned job my kids know of only from stories about their Granddad’s childhood.

When my girls learned that Tom is Jason’s husband, my daughter said: “Oh, so they’re married. Then it takes place now because same-sex marriage wasn’t legal until recently.”**

“Sort of,” I replied, noting that the story seems to take place in Massachusetts, where marriage equality became the law well over a decade ago as a result of Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health, 798 N.E.2d 941 (2003). That decision came down from the Massachusetts Supreme Court at the end of my first semester of law school. I was in Massachusetts at the time, and I wondered how long it would take for marriage equality to reach the rest of the country.

Twelve years later, in Obergefell v. Hodges, the U.S. Supreme Court finally declared that United States Constitution protects the right of same-sex couples to marry. 135 S. Ct. 2584 (2015).

There are some people in our country — such as those responsible for the 2016 Republican Party platform — who want to turn the clock back to a time when real families like the fictional Fletchers had little or no legal protection for their love of each other, but judging from my children’s positive reaction to The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher, I think those people are fighting a losing battle. My kids accept the Fletchers for what they really are: a fun family worth reading about. They and other members of their generation are our future, not those people who want to reinstate the past.

_____________

*We read this book after it was recommended by @raincityjane @thelogonauts on the #diversekidlit twitter chat (for a recap, see here: http://www.thelogonauts.com/2017/04/chat.html)

**A later reference to Minecraft helped us narrow the time period to “pretty much now.”

11 thoughts on “The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher #MiddleGrade #KidLit

  1. ceearrbooknerd

    But… people still have paper routes… don’t they? :/ They did when I was 13ish anyway. And my grandparents still have the paper delivered – so someone must be doing it! Lol 🙂

    1. Haha! I don’t know. When I was a kid, the paper was delivered by some guy in a white van. I think it’s the same way now in my area (and the same van delivers several different newspapers; I can’t imagine a kid handling that on a bike!).

  2. Awww, this book sounds like the sweetest. I am also retroactively furious that my mother never read to me when we were waiting for the bus together. That’s a perfect time to read books to children! Why didn’t we do that!

    1. Ha! #BusStopBook should be a trend. I love reading books to my kids at the bus stop. Sometimes we don’t have time–it depends on how late we’re running–but usually we’re able to fit in a chapter or two before the bus arrives. It’s fun.

  3. I read this one too but haven’t reviewed it yet. We have a big backlog of family reading material right now, but I think the kids will like it as much as your girls did. There’s also a second book out about their summer vacation.

    1. My kids are reading the sequel now! I usually don’t read sequels with them–I like to make sure my kids have plenty of time to explore the themes in these books on their own–but I often read it after they’re done.

    1. My older two were aware of Obergefell when it came down, in part because we live in an area where our registrer of wills was giving out marriage licenses to same-sex couples before it was technically legal in our state. So, it was on the news leading up to the decision and sparked many discussions at home.

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