Nicholas has a lot to worry about. He is worried that his family will have to move because of financial problems. He is worried about being bullied at school. He is worried that he will never have a true friend. His worries only compound when his grandfather, who has spent the last two decades in prison, shows up on his doorstep. It doesn't help that his grandfather has dementia and sometimes can't remember things. One thing his grandfather does remember is that there are some valuable heirlooms hidden somewhere near the old house where he lived before he went to prison. In a desperate attempt to save his own home, Nicholas teams up with some unlikely allies and tries to unravel the mystery of the missing heirlooms and his grandfather's missing memories.
This book had some really complex relationships. Nicholas is kind of an Asperger type genius. He shares a locker with an openly gay middle schooler who is relentlessly teased about his orientation. The kid who teases him the most is the below-average-intelligence school bully, Jordan. Yet somehow, through the course of the story, Baker manages to make them all become friends. The relationship with the grandfather in the story is equally complex. Nicholas's grandfather admits to being selfish, reckless and doing some terrible things, and yet Nicholas becomes very attached to him. I enjoyed the book, though a few things about it were a little annoying. The whole, "my brother is a tree" thing, and all the musical references were overdone. Still, it was different, and the characters were all fully realized and interesting. I was glad that there was no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I think this was Baker's first novel for children. I hope he will get even better and write some more. (358 p.)