Author: Alex Lyttle
Publisher: Central Avenue Publishing
Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge
In From Ant to Eagle, debut author Alex Lyttle creates one of the most authentic sibling relationships I’ve seen in middle grade literature (or possibly any literature at all).
It starts with a premise many kids can relate to: 11-year-old Cal doesn’t want to spend the summer hanging out with his 6-year-old brother, Sammy. In addition to the age difference, they live in a rural part of Ontario without many neighbours and have already spent a lot of time together after moving to the country a year before the story starts.
Everything changes when Cal befriends a new girl at his church and Sammy starts having health problems. This allows Cal and Aleta to keep Sammy away from their secret spot. Sammy spends most of the summer in bed with what the family doctor believes is a case of mono while Cal and Aleta spend their days mud sliding, swimming and reading in their secret spot with a view of Lake Huron.
But at the start of the school year, what felt like a victory to Cal suddenly sours when Sammy’s health problems turn out to be a lot more than mono. From this point in the story, Cal starts spending lots of time in the hospital, meeting other children battling cancer and figuring things out with Aleta, who has her own history of losing family members.
It’s pretty clear from the beginning that this story will not have a happy ending. But readers can find resilience and hope through Cal’s acceptance of the situation and realization that Sammy’s death is not his fault. This story might be too sad for some young readers (I cried through the last five chapters) but both my 12-year-old sons loved it as much as I did.
From Ant to Eagle is a contender for the Red Cedar Book Award along with Inside Hudson Pickle. It’s also the 2018 Silver Birch Award Fiction winner – more proof that young readers really identify with Cal and Sammy’s story. It’s easy to see why the book has gotten so much attention. Told with heart and tackling a subject not often portrayed in middle grade fiction, Alex Lyttle has really created something special.