Wednesday, May 20, 2020

MG Realistic Fiction review of Finding Orion by John David Anderson

41154259Finding Orion by John David Anderson
Format:  Hardcover
Genre:  MG Realistic Fiction
Publisher:  Walden Pond Press
Number of Pages: 368
Published: May 17th, 2019
Source:  Purchased

Opening lines:  "The night we found out about Papa Kwirk, I had a jelly bean for dinner."

The fourth location I'm traveling to on the Believathon II:  Journey to the Stronghold readathon is the Black Ice Bridge, which was inspired by The Polar Bear Explorers' Club by Alex Bell.  The reading prompt for this stop was to read a book that features an expedition, adventure, or some form of travel.  I've selected Finding Orion by John David Anderson because part of the story involves a family trip. 

I've pretty much loved all of John David Anderson's books, Dungeoneers, Ms. Bixby's Last Day, Granted to name a few.  He's an auto-buy author and I'm always excited when I hear about a new book of his coming out.  He's also one of those authors where I actually hold his latest release in reserve, to read once his next book comes out.  There's something comforting about knowing that I can pick it up and have a new to me book that I know I'm going to love ready to read whenever I want.  Right now I have One Last Shot waiting for me. 

 I absolutely adored The Kwirk family, quirks and all.  There's Mrs. Kwirk who is slightly obsessive-compulsive, and their father who is the chief flavor chemist for a jelly bean company and an expert at the lyrics to children cartoons.  Cass is the eldest, and into performing arts, fencing, and her pet python.  The youngest Kwirk is Lyra, who'd be considered to be a walking dictionary of knowledge and words.  And then there's Rion, the middle Kwirk child, who considers himself to be the only normal person of the Kwirk family.  He's totally convinced it's why he has to have been adopted.  This is one of the things I love about Anderson's books, his characters.  He always seems to create these memorable characters, and their dialog is spot on.  I always find myself smiling, laughing at, or nodding my head to something that I'm reading in one of his stories.    

Finding Orion begins as the Kwirk family is taste testing one of their dad's newest flavor inventions when suddenly they're interrupted by the doorbell.  Standing on their doorstep is Chuckles the clown who starts singing the news that Papa Kwirk has died.  I don't know about you, but a singing telegram death notice that certainly made me take instant notice.  After determining from their aunt Gertie that it isn't a joke, Papa Kwirk has actually died, and yes it was his wish to have the message brought in a lighthearted manner, the family packs an overnight bag and heads out to attend Papa Kwirk's funeral.  Who else remembers the dreaded road trip with one of your siblings on either side of you in the back seat?  Oh my goodness the flashbacks.    

Once the family gets to Aunt Gertie's the learn that the singing telegram wasn't the only thing that Papa Kwirk had in mind, he left a few more wishes in his will, first that it would be a Fun-neral, with emphasis on the fun.  This wouldn't be your traditional somber occasion, instead, Papa Kwirk planned for a closed casket, a barbershop quartet, a marching band, and food trucks to serve the guests.  All this frivolity doesn't sit well with Mr. Kwirk, who had a strained relationship with his father even before his death.  So it's not surprising when he gets frustrated by what he thinks is a farce of a funeral, which leads to him discovering the final twist in Papa Kwirk's plans, a scavenger hunt to locate his ashes.                  

 I love the way that Anderson can take a sad topic like the death of a grandparent (Finding Orion) or teacher with an illness (Ms. Bixby's Last Day), and write in dialog that brings humor, and a lightness to the story.  Not to say there aren't tearful moments but he balances everything out so well.  It's just a thing of beauty to read one of his books.  Seriously, how many books involve a scavenger hunt to locate your grandfather's ashes?  Ah but the story is so much more than just the hunt, it's also about the discovery.  What the Kwirk's glean from each clue that they follow.  Finding Orion really touched me on a personal level.  A few years back a close relative passed away, we were asked to help get their house in order, to clear out their personal belongings.  The relative was an artist and made these beautiful watercolor paintings, he was also a collector and saved memento's covering seventy years.  A treasure trove of old photographs, letters, dance cards from highschool, watercolors, doodles on receipts, and even a diary from his time in the war.  It was an incredible experience going through his belongings, but also sad that we couldn't be sharing it with him.  I guess the one thing that stood out for me in Finding Orion was that our knowledge about a person includes all of the things we know about them, but it also includes gaps that when they're no longer here, no one can fill in.  It also makes you ponder what kind of legacy people leave behind, and the importance of making amends and repairing relationships when you have the chance.  The book is way more humorous than I'm making it out to be, and it does contain some of the best chapter headings like this one, "Ice Cream, Poop, Winky Face."  A must-read for fans of Anderson's other books.       


  1. This sounds like an interesting story.

  2. I'm reading Ms. Bixby's Last Day right now. I'm glad to hear that this author has a new book out.

    1. Ms. Bixby's Last Day is my favorite of Anderson's books.

  3. I read and enjoyed Ms. Bixby's Last Day! This sounds like another winner. I definitely have to put this one on my ever growing list. :) I think I heard Ms. Bixby's Last Day is becoming a movie... but I am not sure.

    Have a great one!

    1. I heard news about it a few years back, but haven't seen anything new. I do hope that it becomes a movie, it's such a wonderful story with the right actors it could be a fun movie too.