When a twelve-year-old boy makes a book recommendation, you take it serious. I was with my class in the library before Christmas break and Isaac told me I should read this book so I headed for the checkout without hesitation.
Red Kayak is full of life on the coast: fishing, boating, crab-hunting, and livelihoods dependent on the water. That’s true for Brady and his parents too. His dad supports the family through his boat and it’s all Brady has ever known. Getting up at 4 AM to empty traps before school is a normal part of his day.
His friends, Digger and J.T., are also a normal part of his day. Neighbors and best friends, they’ve grown up together, running the waters, playing in the fields, and sleeping over at each others houses. And then, one decision made in anger, ruins it all.
The boys’ families are working middle-class and as more farmland is sold to wealthy out-of-towners, the boys (especially Digger), see the landscape of their childhood change. And it is when those changes hit too close to home that things go wrong.
And when Brady realizes what has happened, he has to decide if telling the truth is worth the cost. One person is already dead. Will it do any good to tell someone what really happened? And if he does, will it help him finally sleep again?
Red Kayak would make a great read-aloud in class. Isaac told me that’s how he first learned about the book, when his 6th grade teacher read it to them. It’s full of suspense and will lead to some pretty good classroom conversations. I often struggle with my students and their ideas of truth; why it matters, how powerful it is, and whether or not people that tell the truth are “snitches.” This book teaches some hard, good lessons. And it doesn’t end upbeat and resolved, it shows that bad decisions lead to bad endings. And that sometimes I’m sorry just isn’t enough.
DISCLOSURE: AFFILIATE LINKS USED.