The last thing twelve-year-old Dagmar wants is to spend her summer vacation squished into a tiny house with her dad, her stepmom, and her annoying five-year-old half-brother. But after a sudden financial setback, her family is evicted from their Oakland apartment, and that’s just where they end up, parked among the towering redwoods of Northern California.
As Dagmar explores the forest around their new and (hopefully) temporary home, she discovers they are living next door to Reynold Berthold, an eccentric tech billionaire and his very unusual extended family. There’s his brother, Lyndon, a woodsman who sets dangerous booby traps all over the place, and his sister, Penelope, a New Age animal lover who meditates to whale songs in an isolation tank. And then there’s the billionaire’s son, Blake, who has everything he could ever wish for – except maybe a friend.
But when a wildfire engulfs the forest, everyone – rich and poor, kid and adult – will have to work together to escape. And with both families at risk of losing everything, it turns out it’s not the size of the home but the people you share it with that matters.
From the author who brought us The Matchstick Castle, brings us two very odd families with very different financial backgrounds.
First off, I love the name Dagmar. I took a liking to her from the very first page. She’s rebellious and comes off a bit bratty at times but that’s what made her feel realistic. And in her defense, her desire to not be living in a forest like a homeless person is reasonable. Her attempts to sabotage the new living arrangement, however, were not.
Blake is your classic entitled rich kid who lacks basic social skills. I like how the two of them bond over their odd families and how the adults in their lives aren’t always reliable.
Money is a big subject in this story, mainly the difference between not having enough money and having more than is necessary.
The story moves quickly, especially during the wildfire. Nothing sets your priorities straight or brings people together more than a natural disaster. Unfortunately that’s not the case for everyone. Nothing infuriates me more than when people argue over stupid stuff while their lives are in danger. Things like money and credit do notmatter when you are about to die. And that’s exactly what the Berthold siblings are doing during the wildfire. Even during a life or death situation, Reynold couldn’t stop being a pompous jerk. I could make a list of all the pretentious statements he made during the escape.
In conclusion, this is an adventure filled story that conveys many great lessons like the importance of family and how to responsibly deal with things that are out of your control without being too preachy.