Cover image for The season of Styx Malone
The season of Styx Malone


1st ed.
Physical Description:
297 pages ; 22 cm.
Geographic Term:
Caleb Franklin and his big brother Bobby Gene have the whole summer for adventures in the woods behind their house in Sutton, Indiana. Caleb dreams of venturing beyond their ordinary small town, but his dad likes the family to stay close to home. Then Caleb and Bobby Gene meet new neighbor Styx Malone. Styx is sixteen and oozes cool. He's been lots of different places. Styx promises Caleb and Bobby Gene that together, they can pull off the Great Escalator Trade--exchanging one small thing for something better until they achieve their wildest dream. But as the trades get bigger, the brothers soon find themselves in over their heads. It becomes clear that Styx has secrets--secrets so big they could ruin everything--and Caleb fears their whole plan might fall apart.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available

On Order




"Extraordinary friendships . . . extraordinary storytelling." --Rita Williams-Garcia, Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Award-Winning author of One Crazy Summer

Meet Caleb and Bobby Gene, two brothers embarking on a madcap, heartwarming, one-thing-leads-to-another adventure in which friendships are forged, loyalties are tested . . . and miracles just might happen.

Caleb Franklin and his big brother Bobby Gene are excited to have adventures in the woods behind their house. But Caleb dreams of venturing beyond their ordinary small town.

Then Caleb and Bobby Gene meet new neighbor Styx Malone. Styx is sixteen and oozes cool. Styx promises the brothers that together, the three of them can pull off the Great Escalator Trade--exchanging one small thing for something better until they achieve their wildest dream. But as the trades get bigger, the brothers soon find themselves in over their heads. Styx has secrets--secrets so big they could ruin everything.

Five best of the year lists!
NPR, HornBook, Kirkus Reviews, SLJ, Shelf Awareness

Five starred reviews!

Author Notes

Kekla Magoon is a writer, editor, speaker, and educator. She is the author of Camo Girl, 37 Things I Love (in No Particular Order), How It Went Down, and numerous non-fiction titles for the education market. Her book, The Rock and the River, won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award. She also leads writing workshops for youth and adults and is the co-editor of YA and Children's Literature for Hunger Mountain, the arts journal of Vermont College.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

This memorable novel about three African-American boys in small-town Indiana opens with a trade: Bobby Gene and his little brother, Caleb, swap their baby sister for a sack of fireworks. Though the child is returned immediately, the brothers (ages 11 and 10) get to keep the fireworks. But what to do with them? Enter Styx Malone, a charismatic teen (who's "sliding through the world like the air around him was greased"), who tells the siblings, "You just gotta learn how to make people give you things." Styx convinces them that the trio can make a profit on the fireworks and, through a creatively convoluted trade-up sequence (involving old car parts, a lawn mower, and some Harley-Davidson memorabilia), could end up owning a snazzy moped. Beneath the entertaining shenanigans runs an affecting emotional current: Styx has ricocheted from one foster home to another and aches for a loving home; narrator Caleb grapples with the fear that he is "ordinary" and feels smothered by his overprotective father. Interweaving themes of risk taking and trust, betrayal and forgiveness, Magoon (How It Went Down) crafts a novel that is genuinely funny, heartbreaking, and uplifting-extraordinary, in fact. Ages 8-12. Agent: Ginger Knowlton, Curtis Brown Ltd. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

Its summertime, and the living is easy. At least it was before narrator Caleb and his older brother Bobby Gene make a bad deal with their nemesis, Cory, leading to four long weeks of morning chores as punishment. It looks like things are going nowhere fastuntil they meet Styx Malone, a mysterious, lanky, smooth-talking teenager who adds excitement to the brothers otherwise humdrum summer. Living in the small town of Sutton, Indiana, Caleb and Bobby Gene are confined to play within the woods in their backyard. Caleb dreams of a chance to see the worldat least to make it to the big city of Indianapolisand doesnt understand his fathers stubborn insistence that they dont need to travel anywhere outside of Sutton. (Their fathers fears for their safety, as African American young men, is mostly subtext.) Caleb doesnt want the ordinary life that his family lives, and Styx becomes the magic ticket to escape. The boys embark on a journey that encompasses rule-breaking, laugh-out-loud humor, and nail-biting adventure, while exploring the importance of family ties and deep friendships. Spending time with Styx, Caleb, and Bobby Gene is an experience no reader will soon forget. monique harris (c) Copyright 2018. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

After meeting a fascinating new friend, two brothers have the summer of a lifetime. Caleb wants more than his sheltered life in Sutton, Indiana. But his dad knows how dangerous the world can be, especially for black boys, so he prohibits Caleb and his older brother, Bobby Gene, from having the adventures Caleb craves. When Caleb and Bobby Gene meet the cool, smart, smooth-talking Styx Malone in the woods one day, the boys hatch an intricate plan to procure a moped, which promises freedom and excitement. As the boys have adventures some fun, some scary Caleb discovers more about himself, his brother, and Styx, whose bravado belies a sad past. Magoon creates a summer adventure with humor, heart, and a touch of melancholy. Caleb's first-person narration is funny and effortlessly engaging as he yearns for something more than his small town and interacts with characters that both share and reject his thirst for extraordinary adventures. A hopeful story with a captivating cast of characters.--Mariko Turk Copyright 2018 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-7-Summertime in small-town Indiana only heightens 10-year-old Caleb's frustrations with feeling ordinary. When he and his older brother, Bobby Gene, meet smooth-talking 16-year-old Styx Malone, a whole new world of excitement, and its frequent companion trouble, opens up. Enthralled by cool kid Styx, Caleb and Bobby Gene are roped into an "escalator trade," whereby the boys attempt to trade small things for increasingly more valuable items in the hopes of eventually trading up to a shiny moped. The characters are magnetic; Styx in particular unfolds into a touchingly human young man withstanding the buffets of foster care. The themes of friendship, trust, rebellion, and safety strongly flavor the book without overpowering the easy fun. VERDICT A summertime romp filled with trouble-making, camaraderie, and substance. A solid purchase, especially for collections where realism circulates well.-Erin Reilly-Sanders, University of Wisconsin-Madison © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

Cooler-than-cool newcomer Styx Malone takes the more-sheltered brothers Caleb and Bobby Gene on a mischievous, path-altering, summer adventure of a lifetime as they embrace the extraordinary possibilities beyond the everyday in rural Indiana. Readers may think an adventure such as they'll find here wouldn't be possible in the present day; this story takes place outside, where nature, know-how, creativity, and curiosity rule. Creeks, dirt roads, buried treasures, and more make up the landscape in Sutton, Indiana. Younger brother Caleb narrates, letting readers know from the outset that he's tired of his dad's racially tinged determination that they be safely ordinary: "I don't want to be ordinary. I want to bethe other thing." With Styx Malone around, Caleb and Bobby Gene will sure figure out what that "other thing" can become. The three black adolescents are enchanted with the miracle of the Great Escalator Trade, the mythic one-thing-leads-to-another bartering scheme that just might get them farther from Sutton than they've ever dreamed. As they get deeper and deeper into cahoots with Styx, they begin to notice that Styx harbors some secret ambitions of his own, further twisting this grand summer journey. "How do you move through the world knowing that you're special, when no one else can see it?" begs the soul of this novel.Heartening and hopeful, a love letter to black male youth grasping the desires within them, absorbing the worlds around them, striving to be more otherwise than ordinary. Please share. (Fiction. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.



Extra-­Ordinary   Styx Malone didn't believe in miracles, but he was one. Until he came along, there was nothing very special about life in Sutton, Indiana.   Styx came to us like magic--­the really, really powerful kind. There was no grand puff of smoke or anything, but he appeared as if from nowhere, right in our very own woods.   Maybe we summoned him, like a superhero responding to a beacon in the night.   Maybe we just plain wanted everything he offered. Adventure. Excitement. The biggest trouble we've ever gotten into in our lives, we got into with Styx Malone.   It wasn't Styx's fault, entirely. And usually I'd be quick to blame a mess like this on Bobby Gene, but no matter how you slice it, this one circles back to me.   It all started the moment I broke the cardinal rule of the Franklin household: Leave well enough alone.   °°°   It was Independence Day, which might have had something to do with it.   I woke up with the sunrise, like usual. Stretched my hands and feet from my top bunk to the ceiling, like usual. I touched each of the familiar pictures taped there: the Grand Canyon, the Milky Way, Victoria Falls, Table Mountain. Then I rolled onto my belly, dropped my face over the side of the upper bunk and blurted out to Bobby Gene, "I don't care what Dad says. I don't want to be ordinary."   "What?" he said.   I knew he was awake. His eyes were open and blinking up at me. He had his covers pushed down and his socks balled up in his fist. He must've heard me.   "I said, I don't want to be ordinary. I want to be . . . the other thing."   "What other thing?" Bobby Gene said.   I rolled onto my back. "Never mind." I didn't really know what I meant, but it was on my mind because of what happened last night at dinnertime.   Dad got home from his shift at the factory around six, which was normal. He turned on the television, piping through the house the sound of news reports about things that were happening so far from here that they barely seemed real. The reporters were always blabbing on about economics and politics and the constant breaking news.   But every once in a while I would see something that made me want to reach through the screen and touch it, you know? Like to get closer to it, or to make it a little bit real. There was a story about dolphins one time. And a feature about a group of kids who sailed a boat around the world. Special things. Things you'd never find in Sutton.   The problem was, Dad was always talking about us being ordinary folks--­about how ordinary folks like this and ordinary folks need that. He usually said all this to the TV, but our house isn't that big and his voice is pretty loud so you can always hear him.   Ordinary folks just need to be able to fill the gas tank without it breaking them.   Ordinary folks go to church on Sundays.   Ordinary folks don't care who you've been stepping out with; just pass the dang laws.   (A lot of times he said it more colorful than that, but I'm not allowed to repeat that kind of language.)   That night in particular he was getting all hot and bothered, as Mom would say. He was ranting at the TV and Bobby Gene and I were playing Battleship behind the couch. Sneaking back there was a tight fit for us, but we needed to practice undercover operations. Our ongoing spy game was the best thing we'd come up with for summer entertainment thus far.   If I could sink deep enough into the game, it felt like I could take on the whole world. Caleb Franklin, International Man of Mystery. A trench coat, a passport, dark sunglasses, and a briefcase of world-­saving secrets. An important handoff, code-­word clearance--­   "Yahtzee!" Bobby Gene yelled. Which was what he yelled whenever he won at anything.   My spy bubble burst. The secret safe house dissolved. My shoulder ached from being squeezed into the couch-­wall gap.   I didn't have a passport. I'd never so much as crossed the Sutton town limits.   When the news went to commercial, the ad jingle was a piece of classical music. I popped my head up over the back of the couch. "I know that song. We played it in band. It's 'Tarantelle.' "   "Dinner!" Mom called. Dad turned off the TV.   "Hey," Dad said to me. "You got that from just a few notes?"   I shrugged. "I like that music."   "That's because you're extraordinary," Dad said, patting my shoulder. "Let's eat."   My heart plummeted. I knew Dad thought he was paying me a compliment, since he loves to have ordinary this and ordinary that. Still, my heart sank. Extra-­ordinary? Like, so plain and normal that it was something to be proud of?   I hated this. Hated, hated, hated it. Which is why I thought about it all night and into the morning. And why I vowed that, no matter what it took, I was not going to be so ordinary. Excerpted from The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.