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I like this description of As Easy as Falling off the Face of the Earth, excerpted from Kirkus Reviews (starred review):
“It’s easy to fall off the face of the Earth, as the affable 15-year-old Ry discovers when he misses his camp-bound train somewhere in Montana. It wouldn’t be so traumatic if his parents weren’t adrift in the Caribbean, his grandpa in Wisconsin hadn’t plunged into a sinkhole and all potentially helpful cell phones weren’t either dead, out of range, or stolen by a green-hued jungle monkey. Ry’s efforts to get somewhere from the middle of nowhere form the core of this poetic, ebullient odyssey. Three tales in three-plus locales (and the occasional dog-centric comic strip) weave a playfully inventive, even suspenseful narrative peppered with colorful characters and close calls. A long, immensely enjoyable, curiously comforting ramble through an absurd-but-benign world, tellingly filed by the Library of Congress under “Adventure and adventures–Fiction,” “Accidents–Fiction” and “Luck–Fiction.”
From reviews of As Easy as Falling off the Face of the Earth:
“As Easy as Falling off the Face of the Earth by Newbery medalist Lynne Rae Perkins is a splashing, crashing, smashing ode to one young man’s summer vacation gone terribly (and wonderfully) awry.”
–Riching Partington, MLIS. Richiespicks.com
“A lot happens…Parents, grandfathers, dogs go MIA. A kind stranger who ‘marches like the beat of, like, I don’t know, a harmonica or something’ offers to shepherd Ry home to Wisconsin and winds up taking him to the Caribbean. But the novel doesn’t even need all the hoopla, entertaining as it is. Wherever Perkins’s warm, funny, wise narrative goes is where a reader wants to be.”
—The Horn Book (starred review)
“The reader who is willing to suspend disbelief and, like Del, is ready to defy any suggestion of impossibility, will be rewarded with a rich, eventful and extremely entertaining summer road trip.
— The New York Times Book Review
“…although a lot of things happen here, it would be a stretch to call this leisurely novel plot-driven. The point is that it doesn’t matter, and wallowing in wry humor, small but potent truths, and cheerful implausibility in an absolute delight.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“When 16-year-old Ry discovers that his archeological summer camp has been canceled, he steps off the train to call his grandfather only to see the train pull away. So begins Ry’s implausible and existential journey at the center of Newbery Award-winner Perkins’s (Criss Cross) contemplative and energetic novel. Ry stumbles into Del, a handy, sympathetic man who remains unflappable as he extends their road trip to find Ry’s parents, setting off a series of riotous misadventures. A humorous additional narrative, ‘Dogs,’ told in a comic strip format, mimics Del’s and Ry’s story, and continues Perkins’s experimentation with form. Her observations and turns of phrase are as unexpected and delightful as the travels she weaves together.”
—Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)
Questions about As Easy as Falling off the Face of the Earth
1. What inspired you to tell Ry’s story in As Easy as Falling off the Face of the Earth?
When our son was fourteen years old, I found myself thinking that he would enjoy knowing a very good friend of ours, an adventurous and eccentric character named Del. This was not possible, though; Del had died when Frank was only two. I decided to try to introduce them to each other anyway, by imagining someone like Frank meeting someone like Del. An adventure ensued. I was on the edge of my seat. I didn’t know what would happen in the last chapter until the day I wrote it.
2. Luck plays a significant role throughout the novel. Do you believe in luck? Have you experienced luck, either good or bad, in your own life?
“Luck” is another word for “chance” –it’s what we call chance when it happens to us, personally. Then it becomes “good luck” or “bad luck.” I have had both kinds. Somewhere in between is the kind of luck, or chance that can go either way, depending on what you decide to do with it. That is the area that is most interesting to me.
3. You seem to have a remarkable kinship with dogs. How did that come about, and how do you write from the canine perspective?
Dogs are pretty easy to have a remarkable kinship with. Our current dog, Lucky, insists that we take long vigorous hikes in the woods, in all kinds of weather (“Coach Lucky”), where he occasionally takes pauses that make us stop, too, and look at what is all around us. (“Guru Lucky”). Even though we grumble and don’t want to leave the house, we are glad afterwards that we did. When he goes off on a wild tear, running through the town and countryside eluding capture, he returns confident that we will forgive him almost right away, which we do, and that makes us feel good about ourselves. He doesn’t speak himself, but he seems to take such interest in what we say to him. And he is warm and furry. I like cats too, but we don’t have one at the moment.
4. Ry is helped by the kindness of strangers. In what ways have you experienced the kindness of strangers in your life? When have you been the kind stranger?
Having an unreliable car can be an avenue to the kindness of strangers. One of my most memorable of these encounters took place years ago, when my Pacer–that car that looked like a spaceship–died, for the umpteenth time, in a down-and-out area of the city. The car had enough momentum to drift over to the curb, in front of a down-and-out apartment building where two down-and-out looking fellows (stereotype alert) sat on the stoop, observing.
It was before the era of cell phones. The men approached my car. I felt nervous, vulnerable. One of them went to a gas station and brought back gas for me, the other went inside and got glasses of water. We chatted on the stoop while we waited for the gas. (I wasn’t actually out of gas, it was an undiagnosed carburetor/fuel filter thing, but if I let the car sit for a while and/or added gas, it would run again. For a while.)
I expected hostility or indifference, they showed me kindness. I learned something important that day about making assumptions.
Most kindnesses are small, most strangers are only semi-strangers, or strangers briefly. Kindness, friendliness even, is like a secret renegade movement against hatefulness and people who like to hear themselves shout. And it’s more fun. So there.
Whatever kindnesses I commit myself are not so dramatic. Probably the most frequent ones involve making food or listening to people. But I try to keep a kindness-vibe going — hopefully I am doing kind things without even knowing it. That’s the best way.
5. In your novels, illustrations always work in tandem with words to tell the story. Why?
I have been a visual artist for years longer than I have been a writer, so it’s natural that my ideas sometimes take shape as drawings. But even before I wrote, some of my drawings, etchings and lithographs had words incorporated into them. The easy answer is that I like doing both things.
6. What do you most hope readers will take away from As Easy as Falling off the Face of the Earth?
Hmmmm…what a great question. (stalling technique.)
I would love it if readers came away thinking, life on earth, in the real world, is so dang interesting. Especially if you step off the train, whatever that might mean metaphorically speaking.
7. Isn’t Ry’s name a homonym for “wry,” indicating dry humor, as well as “rai,” the hybrid of Arabic and Algerian folk music with western rock, the name coming from the phrase “ha er-rai” (frequently found in songs) meaning, “that’s the thinking, here is the view?” And doesn’t Delwyn’s name mean “proud friend?”
Why yes, that’s true. (Thanks to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary and 100,000 Baby Names.)
Though I wouldn’t put too much weight on that.