For eleven-year-old Tash, Cap’n Jackie isn’t just the elderly next-door neighbor — she’s family. When she disappears, only Tash holds the key that might bring her back.
Tash didn’t want to go to camp, didn’t want to spend the summer with a bunch of strangers, didn’t want to be separated from the only two people she has ever been able to count on: her uncle Kevin, who saved her from foster care, and Cap’n Jackie, who lives next door. Camp turns out to be pretty fun, actually, but when Tash returns home, Cap’n Jackie is gone. And Tash needs her — the made-up stories of dolphin-dragons, the warm cookies that made everything all right after a fight, the key Cap’n Jackie always insisted had magic in it. The Captain always said all Tash had to do was hold it tight and the magic would come. Was it true? Could the key bring Cap’n Jackie back? In a heartfelt and stunningly written story, Pat Schmatz introduces readers to a tenacious, fiercely loyal girl struggling to let go of the fantasies and fears of her childhood . . . and say yes to everything that lies ahead.
The novel will take some readers outside their comfort zones, into the sometimes scary arena of health care facilities and the never-easy subject of death. But the strong presentation of Tash’s viewpoint is reassuring, and so is the straightforward depiction of her discomfort, anger, jealousy, remorse, reconciliation, and sadness. A simply written, emotionally resonant narrative. —Booklist (starred review)
The author skilfully creates empathy for the prickly Tash, a complex and challenging character…Readers will relate to Tash’s grit in finding a way to deal with life when it doesn’t go to plan. —BayViews
Traumatized by past neglect at the hands of an alcoholic parent, an "almost-sixth-grader" faces her phobia of being alone after her elderly friend is injured…Tash’s volatile emotions and Kevin’s gentle steadiness ring true, adding dimension to the tear-jerking trope…A bittersweet but hopeful take on loss, trauma, and the many meanings of family. —Kirkus Reviews
An emotional read likely to appeal to sensitive middle grade souls, affirming with positive normalcy the familial roles of lesbian and gay adults. —School Library Journal