“A charming mystery with a clever and resourceful protagonist. Cricket’s adventures, driven by a longing to heal her family, are as informational as they are exciting. This book grabs readers from the start and journeys with them through ups and downs and twists and turns that leave the reader sad, hopeful, and, above all, grateful for a delightful story well told.”
— June Wilcox, M. Judson Booksellers & Storytellers, Greenville, SC
A Mississippi ghost town and an art mystery combine in this gorgeously written debut just right for fans of Three Times Lucky and A Snicker of Magic!
How far would you go to find something that might not even exist?
All her life, Cricket's mama has told her stories about a secret room painted by a mysterious artist. Now Mama's run off, and Cricket thinks the room might be the answer to getting her to come back. If it exists. And if she can find it.
Cricket's only clue is a coin from a grown-over ghost town in the woods. So with her daddy's old guidebook and a coat full of snacks stolen from the Cash 'n' Carry, Cricket runs away to find the room. Surviving in the woods isn't easy. While Cricket camps out in an old tree house and looks for clues, she meets the last resident of the ghost town, encounters a poetry-loving dog (who just might hold a key to part of the puzzle), and discovers that sometimes you have to get a little lost . . . to really find your way.
* "Told in the easy, laconic tone of good, Southern storytelling, Hackl's debut rolls off the tongue and into the heart easy as warm butter on a biscuit. Lyrical and endearing, this debut is a genuine adventure tale."--Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
"A tale of adventure, full of mystery." --Robert Beatty, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Serafina and the Black Cloak
"Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe is part treasure hunt, part wilderness adventure, and all heart."--Alan Gratz, New York Times Bestselling author of Refugee
"A heartwarming coming-of-age story." --Kirby Larson, Newbery Honor-winning author of Hattie Big Sky
"A masterful debut. Cricket is my new hero, brave and funny and full of heart. I couldn't put it down."--Augusta Scattergood, author of Glory Be
"A brilliant, utterly absorbing debut. I couldn't get enough of Cricket's adventures. Totally unputdownable."--Carrie Ryan, New York TImes Bestselling author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth
About the Author
Jo Watson Hackl was born in Biloxi, Mississippi, not far from Ocean Springs, where her favorite artist, Walter Anderson, lived and once painted a secret room. When Jo was eleven, she moved to a real-life ghost town, Electric Mills, Mississippi, and spent the rest of her childhood exploring the woods and encountering signs of the former inhabitants. Mr. Anderson's secret room and the ghost town were Jo's inspiration for this debut novel. Jo lives with her family in Greenville, South Carolina, where she raises fruits, vegetables, and many, many weeds. You can find her online at JoHackl.com.
"What lies beyond the trees promises to bring one of two things—either powerful glory or terrible heartache. Told in the easy, laconic tone of good, Southern storytelling, Hackl's debut rolls off the tongue and into the heart easy as warm butter on a biscuit. Set near the now-empty mill town of Electric City, Mississippi, the story deals with issues of loss, abandonment, and coping with the instability mental illness can bring to a family. Protagonist Cricket is searching for her absent mama. She believes that if she goes into the woods where daddy taught her about the land and mama taught her about birds and flowers and painting, she'll find the answers she's been seeking. However, it takes gumption to run off into the Mississippi woods straight toward a ghost town—and learning how to survive on her own isn't so easy either. Hackl does a great job of describing Cricket's adventure through her hunter-gatherer skills—from finding bamboo shoots in the dirt to what to do with a "field of clover, dandelion greens, wild onion, and two hickory nut trees." Cricket, with her pet cricket (named Charlene) and her unwavering belief in her mama, learns that some people can't be changed and that life can be both beautiful and cruel. Cricket seems to be white. Lyrical and endearing, this debut is a genuine adventure tale, poignant and as fresh as a spring garden. (Fiction. 8-12) "—Kirkus Reviews, starred review