“To: Fish’s Grandpa. Please tell the sheriff that Fish didn’t want to shoot my old man. My old man is dead in my kitchen, on the floor by the table. From: Dale Breadwin.”
I’m Betty Martin and those are lines from the prologue to Andrew Graff’s adventure story Raft of Stars. Fish and Dale (also know as Bread) are ten years old. Fish, tired of seeing his friend Bread be abused by his father, shoots the man. Believing that they are now wanted murderers they go on the run with only a few supplies, Fish’s grandpa’s barlow knife and the survival skills his grandpa taught them.
It’s summer in Claypot, Wisconsin. With easy access to a river the boys decide, in Huckleberry Finn style, that the fastest way to escape is to build a raft. A few hours after they leave, four adults set off to find them: Sheriff Cal, Fish’s grandpa Teddy, Fish’s mother Miranda and an admirer of Cal, Tiffany.
Luckily Teddy and Miranda know the woods and the river, including the location of the dangerous rapids. Cal and Tiffany do not, but are made of sterner stuff than even they believe, learning on the fly how to ride a horse and paddle a canoe respectively. Even before the rapids they all encounter a number of dangers...bears, unrelenting mosquitoes, thunderstorms, hail and even a small cyclone.
The last third of the book is a page turner as the dangers multiple and the rapids near. As the jacket says this is a “timeless story of loss, hope, and adventure.” There’s even a bumbling deputy for some comic relief.
If you’re looking for an engrossing adventure story with likable characters, then you must read Raft of Stars by Andrew Graff.