Beneath – Roland Smith

I am always on the look out for books for my older children. I stumbled across Beneath by Roland Smith and it was the perfect summer afternoon read.

Two brothers, Pat and Cooper, are quite different. Cooper (the older brother) is a bit of loner who doesn’t see the need for phones or computers. The underground, however, is the focus of Cooper’s energy. It is as if something draws him there. Even with his loner mentality, Cooper loves his young brother, Pat. While they are so very different, they have a strong brotherly bond.

Cooper and Pat spend most of their time together as their parents are disengaged from interacting with them and more focused on work. It appears that Cooper and Pat are a disappointment to their parents by being “average”.

Then one day there is an accident that leads to a fight between Cooper and his parents. Pat is devastated that Cooper has run away and left him behind. Finally after a year, Cooper makes contact with Pat and just as suddenly the contact ends. Pat decides that he is going to travel to New York City to find his brother.

This quest to find his brother leads Pat on an adventure to the “underneath”. Under the streets of New York City there is a thriving community of people who prefer to live underground. This is where Cooper was suppose to be, this is where Pat was to be reunited with his brother. Cooper is not there. He has ventured into The Deep…..

Beneath is a great read for those who enjoy an exciting adventure. The pace was steady, the main characters were likeable, and the plot was intriguing. While disappointed with the relationship between the parents and boys, I loved seeing the close relationship between brothers. Love, friendship, and sacrifice in the face of the unknown and the dangerous.

My three oldest children (16, 15, 13) all read Beneath and enjoyed it. We all look forward to the sequel. There is definitely going to be a sequel, right Mr. Smith?

Beneath gets the Tribe’s Two Thumbs Up for readers twelve and up who love a good adventure. For those who have boys who need some summer reading, Beneath is a great one to add to the list.


Wednesday with Words – 100 Cupboards

From 100 Cupboards by N. D. Wilson….

“There is a bus station in Henry, but it isn’t on Main Street. It’s one block north – the town fathers hadn’t wanted all the additional traffic. The station lost one-third of its roof to a tornado fifteen years ago. In the same summer, a bottle rocket brought the gift of fire to its restrooms. The damage has never been repaired, but the town council makes sure that the building is painted fresh every other year, and always the color of a swimming pool. There is never graffiti. Vandals would have to drive more than twenty miles to buy the spray paint.

Every once in a long while, a bus creeps into town and eases to a stop beside the mostly roofed, bright aqua station with the charred bathrooms. Henry is always glad to see a bus. Such treats are rare.” 


“Boys should sleep in during the summer. I don’t know how else people expect them to grow.”


“Whatever was going on inside the wall in his room was much bigger than finding out that other boys didn’t have to wear helmets. If there really were forgotten doors and secret cities, and maps and books to tell you how to find them, then he needed to know. He looked around at the tall, dew-chilly grass and for a moment didn’t see grass. Instead, he saw millions of slender green blades made of sunlight and air, thick on the ground and gently blowing, tickling his now-damp feet, and all the while silently pulling life up out of the earth. Each was another kid without a helmet, a kid who knew how things were actually done.”


“Henry successfully kept his mind on the game, which might seem strange for a boy who slept beside a wall of magic. But baseball was as magical to him as a green, mossy mountain covered in ancient trees. What’s more, baseball was a magic he could run around in and laugh about. While the magic of the cupboards was not necessarily good, the smell of leather mixed with dusty sweat and spitting and running through sparse grass after a small ball couldn’t be anything else.”


This is the current read aloud in our home. My children and I agree that Mr. Wilson has an amazing ability to paint a story with words.

The Westing Game – 1979 Newbery Medal Winner

The Westing Game (Ellen Raskin) was one of my first selections for the Newbery Through the Decades 1970s challenge. The concept was so intriguing. Samuel W. Westing, a millionaire has been murdered. Maybe. Sixteen strangers (who happen to live or work in the same apartment building) are brought together for the reading of Westing’s will and are invited to play a game. The game is to find who murdered Samuel W. Westing and the prize is Westing’s vast fortune.

This is not your typical murder mystery. The sixteen strangers are paired into teams. We see that each has a story, a connection to Westing, and different struggles. To add to the chaos, a bomber and a thief are tossed into the mix.

As you read, you are naturally trying to solve the mystery yourself. You have the benefit of all the clues! But will it be enough? Can you solve the mystery before the sixteen strangers do? An observant reader might just catch a few extra clues here and there that Raskin has weaved into the story. You might even read it twice to see what you missed.

I read this book and found it engaging and quirky and fun. Some characters I enjoyed and some I did not; a great range of personalities.  Shouldn’t stories be this way? I think I would have enjoyed reading this very much as a child.

Though it was not planned, I read this aloud to my children.  My children ages nine and up kept notes while I read. Most of them had solved the mystery before we were done. Well, at least part of it. Ha! It will likely not be interesting to the younger crowd.  I do think it is best served as an individual read.  We needed to get it returned to the library so read aloud it was.

Have you read The Westing Game?