Clara Poole and the Long Way Round

by Taylor Tyng (Author)

Reading Level: 4th − 5th Grade

Mr. Lemoncello meets the Amazing Race in this quirky high-octane balloon-racing middle grade around-the-world adventure.

When an unintended flight over Michigan in her class science project--a lawn chair held aloft by balloons--brings her instant celebrity, Clara Poole is invited to be the spokesperson for a round-the-world adventure race. But when her overprotective father refuses, Clara forges his signature in a moment of defiance and runs away to Paris to take her place in the skies. If only she'd read the fine print first.

Partnered with a veteran aeronaut who wants nothing to do with her, Clara faces down ten treacherous stages in a race around the world--capturing flags in the perilous mountains of Nepal; being a guest of honor at a maybe-wedding in the Saharan desert; flying through rings of fire in Hong Kong--all while learning the ropes alongside a colorful cast of international competitors.

But there are more dangers ahead. Someone is trying to sabotage the competition. And surviving this race means Clara must come to terms with the tragedy that set her fleeing to the skies in the first place, and accepting that forgiving herself isn't a process she has to undertake alone.

Gorgeous prose and winning characters combine in this quirky, often-hilarious, sometimes heart-breaking, and thoroughly captivating middle grade adventure series starter from an incredible new talent.

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Kirkus Reviews

An engrossing and inventive flight through the skies. 


Tyng surrounds his plucky preteen protagonist with a sturdy and colorful supporting cast, lays out a series of thrilling exploits and dramatic turns as the ten-stage race sails over six continents, and provides both a clever climactic twist and a clear lead-in to sequels at the close. Echoes of Jules Verne and Roald Dahl add even more lift to this soaring debut.

Publishers Weekly

Twelve-year-old Michigan daredevil Clara Poole loves heights and climbing, but her overly protective father has kept a tight rein on her ever since Clara's mother was killed by lightning a year ago. But after tying balloons to a lawn chair results in accidental flight and brings Clara unexpected fame, the World Organization of Balloon Aeronauts' invites her to participate in their 100th-anniversary hot air balloon race as their celebrity Face of the Race. Though her father forbids it, Clara forges his signature and runs away. Upon joining the race, she's partnered with veteran champion Greta Gildersleeve and her trio of monkey pilots. Clara makes similarly adrenaline-seeking friends and enemies among fellow juvenile competitors, including aristocratic Ophelia Chins-Ratton, effervescent Hatsu Hoshi, and good-natured Harbinder Jolly, who each encourage her adventurous pursuits. Throughout the race's increasingly risky stages, Clara embraces her newfound calling as a balloon pilot, while navigating natural hazards and ruthless sabotage from a rival. Occasionally outlandish but with plenty of heart and charm, Tyng's fast-paced debut conjures excitement via a high-octane premise that's tempered by laugh-out-loud humor and populated by idiosyncratic characters. Aeronaut teams represent their home countries; Hatsu cues as Japanese, Harbinder reads as Indian, and Clara and others read as white. Ages 8-12. (July)

Copyright 2023 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Taylor Tyng
Taylor Tyng has worked as a designer, animator, film editor, and software CEO. He finds endless joy in writing for middle-grade readers, who are no longer children but not quite adults. He lives in an antique farmhouse in Massachusetts with his family.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
July 20, 2023
BISAC categories
JUV001000 - Juvenile Fiction | Action & Adventure
JUV039020 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Adolescence
JUV041010 - Juvenile Fiction | Transportation | Aviation
Library of Congress categories

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