- The Losers at the Center of the Galaxy by Mary Winn Heider
Trade ed. ISBN 9780759555426 $16.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9780759555419 $9.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R Gr. 4–7
After the mysterious disappearance of their failed football player father, Winston has filled his void with playing the tuba, while his sister, Louise, has buried her feelings in the rational world of science experiments. Now, though, eighth-grader Winston and best friend Frenchie are convinced their teachers are involved in a criminal conspiracy. Seventh-grader Louise meanwhile sneaks into her father’s old football stadium and finds a new bear mascot in need of rescue. When her free- the-bear plot meets Winston’s investigation, what follows is a rollicking, if utterly bonkers, adventure involving a dogged security guard, a kitty-inspired pop star, an unconventional half-time dance performance, and a pair of stolen sousaphones. Readers willing to embrace the playful silliness will find themselves rewarded with a story of self-reliant siblings, building unexpected support networks and braving new interpersonal connections. Louise is the more compelling character and, in the end, has the more compelling storyline, but Winston brings his own engaging sweetness, especially as he comes to terms with his sense of loss. The novel as a whole, meanwhile, has a serious, sensitive side ready for readers who want it, giving what could be a terminally preposterous story some touching emotional depth. The cast is notably lacking in any kind of real diversity, odd for story set in Chicago. Still, it’s a worthy option for those looking for a madcap middle-grade read.