________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 12 . . . . February 6, 2009

cover Watch Me. (Orca Currents).

Norah McClintock.
Victoria, BC: Orca Books, 2008.
94 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55469-039-8 (pbk).
ISBN 978-1-55469-040-4 (hc.).

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.

Review by Jessica Peterson.

**** /4


I walked down the street as far as I could. I hated my so-called birthday present. I hated Neil and the way he called me Sport. I hated that my mom thought that he was such a great guy. And I really hated that she made my dad move out. That happened about a year after I saved my dadís life. He would have died, burned up in a fire, if it hadnít been for meÖ They said I was a hero. But being a hero isnít as great as you might think. For one thing, I was in the hospital for a long time and ended up with ugly scars on one whole side of my body. The worst were the ones on the side of my neck and face. I missed a lot of school. When I finally went back, kids didnít treat me like a hero. They treated me like a freak because of all the scars. Plus I was way behind everyone else. I hate school. I hate phys-ed class. Sometimes I feel like I hate everything.

Kaz is a school-aged boy who is fed up with life. After being badly burned saving his father from a house fire, Kaz returns to school to find himself the victim of ridicule and bullying. Things at home are not much better. Kazís parents have divorced, and he is residing with his mother and her newly found partner, Neil, who is not exactly relating to Kaz. Neil is constantly pressuring Kaz to play on a hockey team, something of which Kaz wants no part. He hates getting undressed and baring his scars to other boys.

     One day after class, while Kaz is hanging out with his best friend, Drew, in an attempt to spend time away from home, they accidentally hit a senior citizen with their Frisbee. Kaz motions like he is going to help the woman, but instead he steals her belongings and makes a run for it. There is nothing of value in the purse, and so the boys toss it. Later on that week, Kaz is sent to detention where he meets Jana. Janaís grandmother has been assaulted and robbed of some precious possessions, and Kaz learns the consequences to his actions. Feeling that all has gone terribly wrong in life and that he cannot undo his wrong deeds, Kaz decides flee to his fatherís, but, at the last second, decides that this time he will make things right.

     Watch Me is a well-rounded story that includes many issues and emotions to which students can easily relate. The issues include divorce, physical differences, dyslexia, frustration with school, bullying, theft and its consequences, as well as the emotions of remorse, empathy, regret and isolation. I believe that these themes and emotions, along with McClintockís simple style of writing, will really hook younger readers. The story is one that is very close to the lives of the many members of its reading audience: it is a story of frustration and difference; it is about being fed up and snapping. I personally enjoyed the storyís ending. Throughout the book, Kazís life may seem bleak and, through his own eyes, sometimes completely hopeless, but the ending actually seems to bring the elements of Kazís life together in a positive way. The book has very few difficult words, a writing style which means less stopping for the reader. Additionally, the chapters, which are quite short (about 5-7 pages), allow for even slow readers to see their progress and feel more confident as readers of chapter books.

Highly Recommended.

Jessica Peterson, a student in the Early Years Education Program at University of Manitoba, holds a degree in Fine Arts and is currently student teaching in a grade 1/2 classroom in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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