On the eve of his twelfth birthday, Wil David learns he won’t get to fulfill a longstanding family tradition. Though the Davids have delivered The Cooper County Caller to the citizens of Steele for decades, the newspaper announces it is no longer profitable to offer home delivery to the residents of Wil’s small, out-of-the way town.
But Wil, third son in a family of limited means, is desperate for the regular wages the route promises, having long dreamed of saving his tips to buy a laptop computer. He starts a petition to convince the newspaper to reverse its decision, and gets to know his quirky neighbors better in the process of galvanizing support.
At the same time, he tries a second tack: He’ll earn the money he needs by winning the “Cover-the-Spot” game—and its $1,000 grand prize—at the annual Cooper County Fair. He’s sure the game is rigged somehow, so Wil knows he must figure out how before he even attempts the feat. Then, cheered on by the crowd, he uses his finely honed newspaper-tossing skills to win, and has the ammunition to unmask the game as a fraud when the carny tries to say he hasn’t.
Wil is hailed as a hero, but the petition drive has taught him that the route means much more to him than simply a way to earn money. He had seen The Caller’s decision as a loss to him. His neighbors show him that being dismissed as too small to matter is a loss to all.
Hardcover: Dutton, September 2009