The Million Dollar Race

By Matthew Ross Smith

Ages 8 to 12.

How would you feel if the most embarrassing moment of your life was caught on video, posted online and then watched 8 million times?

At the beginning of “The Million Dollar Race,” 13-year-old Grant Falloon trips and falls right as he is about to win the 100-meter race at a major track competition. “I lie facedown on the track,” he narrates, “a literal inch from the finish line.” He is rightfully annoyed when Franny, his 12-year-old brother, happily posts the video on his popular YouTube channel and it goes viral.

But Grant’s embarrassment doesn’t keep him from racing again. He and his best friend, Jay Fa’atasi, learn about an international competition for kids ages 11 to 13 that will earn the winning boy and girl “a trust fund worth one million dollars and a lifetime sponsorship deal from the Babblemoney Sneaker Company.” Esther Babblemoney, the billionaire “Sneaker Queen” who has dreamed up this race, seems decidedly odd, but this opportunity seems too good for Grant and Jay to ignore.

First Grant needs the okay from his family. The Falloons, he explains, operate as a democracy, so that any decision affecting the family must be approved by a majority vote of their four-person household. Grant says this process developed out of his parents’ days living on the California commune where he was born. His parents remain a little quirky. People stare at his dad’s purple velvet coat, his mom’s paint-splattered overalls, and the way he and his family haul groceries on their bikes during weekly shopping trips.

Grant finds it more comfortable at Jay’s house (they have been best friends as well as racing competitors since the fourth grade) or on the track. “If I’m moving fast enough, people can’t really see me. The stares don’t stick.”

“The Million Dollar Race” is told mostly through Grant’s narration, but author Matthew Ross Smith quickens the already fast pace of the story with interview segments from a (fictional) ESPN documentary about the (also fictional) Babblemoney race. Grant and Jay encounter a bunch of surprising obstacles, presented with humor and suspense, on their winding way to the finish line.

You might also like . . .

Restart” (ages 9 to 12) by Gordon Korman. After the 13-year-old main character falls off a roof and loses much of his memory, he must figure out what sort of person he used to be and if he wants to change.

In David Leviathan’s “The Mysterious Disappearance of Aidan S. (As Told to His Brother)” (ages 8 to 12), two siblings find out if they can trust each other after one says he has visited a place like the magical world of Narnia.

Do you have a suggestion for a book or two related to our “True Friends” theme? Ask a parent or teacher to fill out the form at by July 28, and we may publish your recommendation. In August we will send prize packages to three randomly selected kids who sent in suggestions.

Next time in book club

by Terri Libenson

Ages 8 to 12.

At the end of seventh grade, Jaime realizes that her group of friends has changed. The girls have become judgy about her clothes and the things she likes. Even her longtime best friend, Maya, seems to be pulling away. The group has decided to vote out Jaime because she is too babyish, and the unofficial leader tells Maya to deliver the bad news. Jaime and Maya — who share their perspectives in comic panels and in prose — learn more about what they value in friends as they navigate this middle-school drama.

Join the club

The Summer Book Club is open to kids ages 6 to 14. They may read some or all of the books on our list. (Find a blurb for each book The first 700 kids registered will receive a flying disc. To join the club, children must be registered by a parent or guardian. To register, that adult must fill out our form at If you have questions, contact