Cover image for The key to every thing
Title:
The key to every thing
ISBN:
9780763695668
Edition:
1st ed.
Physical Description:
198 pages ; 21 cm
Summary:
Tash doesn't want to go to camp, doesn't want to spend the summer with a bunch of strangers, doesn'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 make everything all right after a fight, the key Cap'n Jackie insists has magic in it. The Captain has always said that all Tash has to do is hold it tight and the magic will come. Is it true? And can the key bring Cap'n Jackie back?"--from dust jacket.
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Summary

Summary

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.


Author Notes

Pat Schmatz is the author of the critically acclaimed Bluefish as well as Lizard Radio, which won the James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award for exploring and expanding the understanding of gender. Pat Schmatz lives in Minneapolis.


Reviews 5

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-6-This heartfelt and often sad story follows the coming-of-age of 11-year-old Tash. Uncle Kevin, her legal guardian, is off on a monthlong trip to New Zealand and Tash is forced to spend the summer in a camp. She's initially resistant and takes out her anger on Uncle Kevin and Cap'n Jackie, her elderly and curmudgeonly next-door neighbor with whom she shares a deep bond. Upon returning from camp, Tash is distressed to find that Cap'n Jackie is gone-she's in a rehab facility after breaking her hip. This is a simple tale about loving and letting go, showing deep levels of understanding, forgiveness, and love between a close-knit family defined on its own terms. Schmatz takes the axiom of "show, not tell" seriously in the quest to avoid defining people by their histories and legal relationships; as the story unfolds these things slowly become clear. After an opening section written through letters and emails, the pacing steadies, unfolding Tash's realistic character growth through single-scene, short chapters. VERDICT An emotional read likely to appeal to sensitive middle grade souls, affirming with positive normalcy the familial roles of lesbian and gay adults.-Rhona Campbell, Georgetown Day School, Washington, DC © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Publisher's Weekly Review

In this middle-grade drama, 11-year-old Tash returns home from summer camp to discover that Cap'n Jackie, the elderly next-door neighbor who's helped raise her, has been admitted to a rehab facility following an accident. Still unsettled from a fight the two had before she left for camp, Tash can't wait to make amends and have everything go back to normal. What will she do without her friend's cookies, hugs, and fanciful stories? Unfortunately, Cap'n Jackie is unresponsive after undergoing hip surgery, and Tash must find a way to break through to her. She wonders if the magical key Cap'n Jackie once gave her might help. Schmatz (Lizard Radio) captures the uncertainty and turbulent emotions of a girl struggling with change and loss while examining the value of found family. Schmatz's novel is heartfelt, but the letters and memories that depict Tash's relationship with Cap'n Jackie fail to fully explore the true strength of their bond and its impact upon the story. Ages 8-12. Agent: David Bennett, Transatlantic Literary Agency. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Horn Book Review

Arguments between soon-to-be sixth grader Tasha and her neighbor and grandmother-figure Capn Jackie are not uncommon. Their short tempers are part of the deep bond they share, so when Tashas foster father goes on a trip to New Zealand and makes her attend summer camp for a month rather than stay with Capn Jackie, Tasha lashes out without much thought. But when she returns from camp (after having made a best friend and changing her name to Tash), she discovers that Capn Jackie is in a rehabilitation center after breaking her hip, and nearly catatonic. Schmatz (Bluefish, rev. 11/11; Lizard Radio, rev. 9/15) lays some intricate character groundwork for her small cast, its depth and development all the more impressive given the relatively short page count. Loneliness threads through the narrative as Tash copes with her fear of being alone (rooted in experiences of neglect by her incarcerated father) and as Capn Jackie, as demonstrated through her interspersed letters and journal entries, had been working through the ache of the loss of her partner Vanessa. Tash grows quickly and painfully through a series of emotional trials as she attempts to bring her friend back to herself, realizes she missed the opportunity to apologize, and ultimately must let her captain go. Readers will find here an emotional punch; a nuanced and character-driven plot that doesnt stray from a middle-grade perspective; and a thoughtful exploration of grief and pain--and family ties that strengthen through both. anastasia m. Collins (c) Copyright 2018. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Kirkus Review

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 resents that she has to go to camp while her loving great-uncle and custodian, Kevin, goes to New Zealand. She'd rather stay with her whimsical elderly neighbor, Cap'n Jackie, and hear her stories. Isolated by agoraphobia and grief, Cap'n Jackie retreats into a fantasy while Tash is away: An old key summons a magical dragon/dolphin and the spirits of her cat, Mulligan, and her partner, Vanessa. Tash had angrily thrown the key at Cap'n Jackie before leaving, a gesture with greater consequences than she realizes. While Tash is at camp, the friends' brief handwritten correspondence reveals their mutual quick tempers as well as their bond. When Tash returns, she learns that Cap'n Jackie has been admitted to a rehab facility after breaking her hipand, it seems, her spirit. Tash vows to find the key and make amends, not realizing that her solo mission is preparing her for being alone in a different way. (Readers, however, may notice some heavy foreshadowing.) Though her affection for Tash is clear, Cap'n Jackie herself is little more than a lonely old personfeistiness notwithstandingwhose ultimate function is to help Tash learn a life lesson or two. But Tash's volatile emotions and Kevin's gentle steadiness ring true, adding dimension to the tear-jerking trope. The book seems to adhere to the white default.A bittersweet but hopeful take on loss, trauma, and the many meanings of family. (Fiction. 9-12) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Eleven-year-old Tash is furious that Kevin, her uncle and guardian, has arranged for her to spend a month at summer camp, and has raged at her feisty, imaginative, beloved neighbor, Cap'n Jackie, calling her a crazy old lady for backing up Kevin's decision. Four weeks later, Tash returns home in a happier frame of mind, only to find that Cap'n Jackie has a broken hip. In the rehab facility, Tash finds her old friend silent and unresponsive, despite attempts to reach her through memories of magical times they have shared. A letter from Jackie, delivered after her death, helps Tash let go of regrets, mourn her loss, and keep going. Early in the book, letters to and from camp offer lively introductions to the characters. Schmatz vividly portrays Tash and Jackie, each as stubborn, quick-tempered, and fearful at heart as the other. Steadfast and dependable, Kevin serves as a foil for both. 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.--Phelan, Carolyn Copyright 2018 Booklist