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Why a Dad Hates the World - an Editorial Review of "Yelling at the Stars"

Updated: Dec 10, 2022

Book Blurb:

Asher seems to make his dad furious no matter what he does. In hopes of getting his dad back to normal, whatever that is, he looks for a way to fix it all. But he soon finds that he’s bitten off more than he can chew, when he discovers clues suggesting his Grandpa’s death may not have been as natural as he was led to believe. The secrets he uncovers might change everything, but what does a nuclear bomb from 60 years ago have to do with his Grandpa’s death and his dad hating the world?

Asher, Mari, and their quirky little sisters team up to solve the mystery before Asher’s dad destroys the family. It doesn’t take long, though, for Asher to realize that trying to save someone else can end up putting yourself at risk.

Through the support of Mari and their top secret spy sisters, Asher uncovers enraging revelations about his grandfather's death, but realizes, a little too late, that some mysteries are better left unsolved.

Book Buy Links: Coming Soon!

Author Bio:

My name is Michael Hertzog. I’m a Leo and I like short walks on the beach. I’m married to my wife of 16 years, Lani, and we have two children, Gideon and Lilly, ages 12 and 10, respectively. We have a golden retriever, two cats, three chickens, and have sent many fish to be with their maker. I'm a fifth-grade teacher by day and first-time author by night . . . and weekend. I 've taught for thirteen years, just north of Seattle. I write my books based on what I see kids going through and what messages I believe they need to hear. I want every middle-grade kid out there to read my books and know that they're not alone. My biggest inspirations are Sharon Creech and Lynda Mullaly Hunt. Other favorite authors include Lois Lowry, Gary Paulsen, Katherine Applegate, and Kate DiCamillo. For more information, please visit my website at

Editorial Review:

Yelling at the Stars is an incredibly satisfying tale with its fair share of heart-warming moments, scattered with just the right amount of humor so it doesn’t feel like a comedy, but also doesn’t feel like a rather serious book. It has an element of mystery that kept me enthralled until the last page, and the character development is wonderful to experience. It’s well balanced, eloquently worded, and accurately represents the logic and thinking points of the protagonist, a 12 year old boy.

The story begins with Asher McCovey, his little sister Rory, and their mom and dad moving to their grandpa’s asparagus farm. Their grandpa has just tragically passed away from thyroid cancer, and Asher’s dad (Mac) has just lost his job and the family’s house. Asher’s less than thrilled about the prospect of moving to a completely new area, starting at a new school, and leaving his friends. At age 12, he feels he should get more of a say in the matter, but his parents disagree. “It’s a good opportunity,” his mom says, “Your grandpa left us the farm.”

Rory, at age 8, doesn’t seem to mind the move. The property has a river, endless fields, a donkey, and a bunch of chickens which she promptly names. And, living on the property is Manny and his daughters (Mari and Julia) who immigrated from Mexico. Manny needed work, and grandpa McCovey needed workers so everything turned out perfect. Asher is best friends with Mari (or maybe a little more than friends) and the two often spend quality time together. “Every time I come to the farm, Mari and I pick up right where we left off. We jump back into farm life, playing with the animals and running over to the grove to climb trees. We spend hours down by the river with our lines in the water, staring at the patterns in the ripples and pointing out deformed animals in the clouds. After years of fishing, I’m pretty dang good at it. Mari’s decent, but I’ve got the McCovey magic. Grandpa could catch fish with a baitless hook. I wouldn’t believe it unless I saw it with my own eyes, but it happened.”

A problem soon surfaces though: the farm is losing money. Now, it seems a bit predictable that the local townspeople come to help out with the asparagus harvest, but in my opinion such a storyline never gets old. In fact, there is a bit of a refreshing twist going on. Instead of the townspeople working to harvest the asparagus for the family, Asher come up with the idea for a “U-cut asparagus farm,” and the idea turns out to save the farm as much as the helpful townspeople.

However, through the sweet, heart-warming moments, there is more than a little bit of ‘yuck’ going on. Asher’s dad is a terrible father. He’s prone to violent outbursts of anger, lashing out at his children and wife. Sometimes throwing things, sometimes chasing them, but mostly yelling. Mac’s anger hangs over Asher and Rory like a dreary cloud every day. They live in constant fear of upsetting him, and the serious consequences of doing so. Such anger is sometimes disturbing to read, as Rory seems to take it the hardest, but Asher fears he may turn out like his dad one day.

I don’t want her to think I’m like Dad . . . at all. Sure, I’m angry at times, but who isn’t? Besides, I have good reason to be mad. I see Dad as the nuclear bomb and me as a firecracker. Sure, I might hurt somebody, but only if they’re careless. Dad can take out half a small country and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Most of Mac’s built-up anger stems from his father’s death which he believes the government is responsible for. Mac’s father lived near a nuclear plant where the atomic bombs that destroyed Nagasaki and Hiroshima were manufactured, and as an after effect of the radiation nearby he developed thyroid cancer. Mac’s spent a year accusing the government of his father’s death, but he hasn’t gotten anywhere. The government simply refuses to take any responsibility for the deaths caused directly by their poorly made decisions.

Asher and Rory’s mom is a devout Christian, reading her Bible frequently, and praying even more frequently. Asher holds a bit of a grudge against her as his father’s rage bubbles over time and time again. He wonders why she never does anything to stop him, choosing to pray instead of stopping her husband from lashing out at their children.

It’s not about ‘putting up’ with your children, Mac.” She tells him one day. “You’re supposed to treat them with kindness.”

And throughout the book, she answers Asher by saying that God is helping (much to Asher’s distress, as nothing seems to be happening.) But God does indeed help. He may not instantly fix Mac’s violent temper and make everything work out perfectly, but rarely does anything work out that way.

Toward the end of the book, Mac freaks out at Rory at the dinner table over the fact that Rory only eats the breading off her fish (because the family is in a financial crisis.) Rory promptly drops to the ground, crawls along the floor to avoid his screaming, and disappears out the door. It’s a rude awakening for Mac as he realizes his children are terribly afraid of him and his explosive anger. He seems to deflate when Asher finds Rory in the hayloft in the barn. And that moment becomes the one where he lets the first bit of his anger go. Then, through the rest of the book, he gradually drops the rest and becomes much like how Asher tells us he used to be: a good father, steadily regaining his patient and loving demeanor.

Overall, the writing is easy to read, and though the storyline with the farm may be a tad overused to some people, this book is sure to become a treasured classic.


“Yelling at the Stars” by Michael Hertzog receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company


1 commentaire

Michael Hertzog
Michael Hertzog
11 déc. 2022

As of today, Saturday, there are just four days left on the Kickstarter if anybody's interested. Drawings for lots of free book sets for teachers with purchase.

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