The Fletchers are in the epicenter of the culture wars: a multi-faith family with two dads, three different ethnicities, and four adopted kids. And there are moments—when the whole family attends back-to-school night at Eli’s new school, for example—when that reality threatens to erupt into the novel.
But it doesn’t.
And that’s what makes Levy’s middle-grade debut so stunning. The family navigates Sam’s muddy leaps from soccer practice to musical rehearsals, Jax’s veterans project, Eli’s move to an academically-minded private school, and even little Frog’s new friend, Ladybug (Frog’s real name is Jeremiah, and everyone’s pretty sure Ladybug is imaginary). That they manage all of it while attempting to win over a grumpy new neighbor and cooking everything but the turkey on Thanksgiving—oops!—is simply par for the course.
With two dads and four boys, The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher is also 100% boy. In a genre dominated by stand-out heroines from today’s Penderwicks as far back as Judy Blume’s titular Margaret and even Anne of Green Gables, this is a welcome change that will appeal to parents, kids, and teachers.
Like any great family story, though, the best part about the Fletchers is the way they allow us to see ourselves differently, with greater capacity for love and kindness than we might ordinarily grant. Like The Brady Bunch once did, the Fletchers make the same mistakes real families make—but with a touch of humor that enables us to laugh and head back into the fray of the real world, changed.
Dana Allison Levy once called her story “writing about all the shenanigans,” and after reading The Misadventures, I hope she keeps on doing just that.