The impossibly international pickle of mystery, adventure, and zany fun

Have you seen the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding?”  If you have and didn’t like it, don’t worry, it has nothing to do with the book I want to talk about.  But if you haven’t, it’s a great movie and you definitely should.  But I digress.  I bring it up because even though I’m not male and my husband isn’t Greek, I think about it every time I think about our families.  I’m the one with a couple of cousins in Wisconsin (give or take).  He’s the one with 30 first cousins and hundreds of other people he calls cousins that, in my family’s definition, aren’t really even related.  I used to get in arguments with him when he would describe someone as a “cousin” who is really a 2nd cousin once removed, or even a great-aunt, my argument being that the word “cousin” has an actual meaning and doesn’t translate to “person somehow related to me”.  But I’ve since learned to love his family’s all-inclusiveness and the sense of belonging that really gives you.

But all this is by way of writing a disclaimer, saying that by my husband’s definition, I am related to the author of the following book.  I’m not completely sure how (it involves tracing up a couple of generations, and then paralleling over through some siblings and then back down, and maybe over again, or something like that).  But I am super proud to say that Eli Stutz is my “cousin” and he wrote a great middle grade book.  About which I will now write.

Title: Pickle Impossible
Author: Eli Stutz
Genre
: Fiction, Adventure
Age: Upper Elementary and Young Middle School, Ages 9 – 12

Summary and Review:

Pierre has twenty-four hours to take a prized jar of pickles to the international Picklelympics in Switzerland, where the financial prize is the only hope of saving his family’s farm.  On the way he meets (a euphemism for “is kidnapped by”) a young girl who later saves him and is coincidentally the narrator of the story.  Together, Pierre and Aurore fight evil bad guys, play pool, ride motorcycles, fly planes, and meet a woman who has refused to grow old.

The adventures are completely wacky, totally unbelievable, and wonderfully fun to read.  I picked up the book one night when my husband was out late and a few hours later found myself eagerly turning the final pages, having never left my seat in the meantime.

Possible conversations to have with your kids:

I like the character of Pierre–the perfectly average kid who realizes that he’s actually a perfectly balanced kid and that this comes in handy.  In a world in which we seem to expect our kids to be the best at everything they do, the moral of how great it is to just be in the middle is refreshing and honest.  Ask your kids what they are perfectly average at–and celebrate it!

Me, for example, I’m perfectly average at most sports–I always seemed to pick them up faster than other beginners, and then I never got much better than that.  I’m not someone who can’t throw or catch, but I’m not someone who ever was or ever will be a sports star.  And yet I love to play sports!  I remember days sitting on the sidelines at high school junior junior varsity soccer games wondering if I would ever play.  I wish at the time I had just known that it was okay to simple have fun playing the game (of course, you have to have a coach that lets you play first, but you get the idea).  I remember one horrifying game when a coach illegally substituted me (in the middle of play) for an older girl who wasn’t even on our team–or in our age group.  I felt like a cheater, a total loser, and definitely got the wrong message–that winning the game was much more important than letting some slow midfielder run up and down the grassy field on a nice day.

Too many kids today drop out of activities they aren’t good at, but they enjoy, because there is so much pressure for success everywhere.  Most of our kids aren’t going to be professional athletes.  And yet sometimes their middle and high school training looks like that’s what we want them to be.  I mean, someone has to come in last.

Or, in the case of Pierre, in the dead middle of the pack every single time.

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