Finding Orion

368p. HarperCollins/Walden Pond. May 2019. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062643896.
Gr 4–6—Rion Kwirk has grown up surrounded by quirks and craves normalcy. At the funeral for his grandfather, Papa Kwirk, the family learns that they must embark on a scavenger hunt to find Papa Kwirk's ashes. In the next 24 hours, the Kwirk family eats 36 scoops of ice cream, climbs a 40-foot tree to retrieve a clue, and fights off thieves in a local museum. Along the way, they learn the truth behind much of Papa Kwirk's behavior, forcing Rion's father to reckon with their long estrangement. Rion also develops a crush on Tasha Meeks, an African American girl whose father runs the local ice cream parlor. The Kwirks are a white family, and most characters are also white. There is a brief, tokenizing mention of Rion's father's lab assistant, Riya, who has a Hindu name and has invented a chutney flavored jelly bean. Like many middle grade titles, the story leavens earnest life lessons and hard realities with humor. Papa Kwirk and a friend are recovering alcoholics, there is a description of a child's funeral, and Rion's father suffered childhood neglect. However, the news of Papa Kwirk's death is delivered via a singing (and cringing) clown, and his memorial service is a "funneral" with bands and food trucks. Rion is a perfect straight man who dryly observes his outlandish family's antics.
VERDICT Humor, plot twists, and quirky characters abound in this earnest middle grade tale of self-discovery.

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