washing dishes and kissing lessons

Marnus is stuck. He's not the oldest. That would be his brother Donovan, the swimming star who offers kissing lessons to neighborhood girls when his parents are at work. He's not the youngest. That would be Adrian, who has been scheming to make money since he was out of diapers. Then there's Marnus, in the middle. He answers the front door to the pretty girls who all ask for Donovan. And he washes all the dishes, every day, to try to pay back the money he borrowed from Adrian to get a new game system. This is how he spends his Christmas vacation. 

That is, that's how he was spending his Christmas vacation until Leila rang the doorbell. Marnus figured it was another one of the girls who wanted kissing lessons from Donovan, but Leila didn't know what he was talking about. She had a petition she wanted him to sign, a petition to save the Tree at the Centre of the Universe. When Marnus asked her what she was talking about, she took him right to the park and showed him the tree. It's a white karee, and it's a beautiful full-grown tree in the middle of the park that the city plans to chop down. 

Leila won't allow it and climbs the tree, planting herself right in its branches so that the men from the city can't cut it down. Marnus climbs up too, still holding his dishcloth. 

He's not entirely sure why he decided to climb the tree. It doesn't mean that much to him. But he does know what it's like to feel invisible and unheard, and this seems as good a chance as any to finally take a stand. To take a stand against Donovan and his girlfriends. To take a stand against Adrian and his blackmail. To take a stand against doing the dishes. This is Marnus's chance to be heard at last. 

As time goes by, Leila and Marnus find that they're not alone in their fight. Locals who also believe in the dignity of the tree come by to check on them, to bring them food and make sure they have what they need. Leila's mother spends the night on a blanket at the foot of the tree, and the next day, a journalist comes to write an article about them for the newspaper. As the news spreads about Leila and Marnus in the tree, he comes to realize that maybe he doesn't have to be as invisible as he thought. 

Jaco Jacobs has written a fresh, honest, lovely tale of finding your voice and standing up for what you believe in. A Good Day for Climbing Trees is a beautiful coming-of-age story of a boy learning what it will take to be a teenager, of finding his sense of self in a difficult situation and putting himself out there for what he believes in. The characters are interesting and relatable, and the story being set in Africa allows readers a chance to get a glimpse of another culture in a fascinating, fun way. This is a great story and a perfect lesson for middle school readers with a sense of adventure. 

 

Galleys for A Good Day for Climbing Trees were provided by Oneworld Publications through NetGalley, with many thanks.