Lynne Rae Perkins’ latest novel arrived with very little fanfare, which is appropriate, given that each of her novels are introspective little gems that rarely garner tons of publicity or gimmicky marketing campaigns. Instead, they sneak up on the reader and become the kind of books readers will talk about in hushed tones and the pass on reverently.
When the train taking him to summer camp chugs to a hault, Ry is told he has 40 minutes before it takes off again. He takes advantage of this time to step off the train in search of cell phone reception. After fiddling with his phone, he looks up to see the train moving on without him. Meanwhile his parents are at sea, on a Caribbean voyage that is turning out to be far more stressful then relaxing, and his grandfather Lloyd, who is supposed to be dogsitting while Ry and his parents are away, finds himself wandering around in a state of confusion after a nasty fall leaves him unsure of who he is or where he is supposed to be.
As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth is an ensemble piece about people who find themselves lost, both figuratively and literally. Perkins greatest strength is her subtlety. Don’t be fooled by that mouthful of a title- her writing is clean and simple. Her novels are never wordy, and she never over-writes a moment. Even her naming is simple and pitch-perfect: Ry, Del, Yulia, Everett. Consider this sentence: “He didn’t relish the idea of bobbing like a crouton in the sharky broth.” Is that a great sentence or what? This is exactly the kind of fresh, delicious language you can expect from a Perkins novel.
In both All Alone in the Universe and Criss Cross, Perkins includes her own spot illustrations. It has become part of her whimsical, quirky style. In As Easy As Falling Off the Face of the Earth,the story of the dogs, who have their own incredible journey*, is relayed mostly through a numer of graphic sections. Personally, these didn’t really do anything for me, but they didn’t take anything away from the story, either.
Officially, this is a YA novel, but the tone makes it feel more like middle grade to me. It’s a great read for kids 10+, particularly for boys who are unimpressed with zombies, spies, gore, or all those other high-octane books that are designated as “boy books.” Although it is not my favourite Perkins book**, it is another notch in her impressive belt of children’s fiction.
As Easy as Falling Off The Face of the Earth is available now from Greenwillow Books.
* Sheila Burnford reference totally intentional
**All Alone in the Universe is my favourite Perkins book. Sublime.