________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 3. . . .September 18, 2009


Rex Zero: The Great Pretender.

Tim Wynne-Jones.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood/House of Anansi Press, 2009.
224 pp., pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 978-0-88899-946-7.

Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14. Review by Jen Waters. ***˝ /4



“Because you can’t,” says Buster. “You have to go to the school that you have to go to.”


“Because you have to. It’s probably the law. Anyway, they know you’re coming to live out here and if you don’t show up at your proper school they’ll send a truant officer to get you.”

“Proper school?” I ask. “What school? How could they know I’m coming when we haven’t even moved yet?”

“Yeah, but the Board of Education Knows.”

“This isn’t Russia,” says Kathy. “In Russia maybe they know what everybody’s doing, but over here nobody knows anything.”

Rex and his band of brothers and sisters are at it again in Rex Zero: The Great Pretender. It is now 1963, and Rex is about to start Grade 7 at Hopewell School when he discovers his large family is moving to the other side of the city and he must attend a new school. Fed up with constant relocation and the loss of friends that always occurs in such a shuffle, Rex and his crew come up with a cunning plan for him to attend his old school unbeknownst to his parents. But while Rex is quite a crafty child, it’s not long before the jig is up and Rex is enrolled at the proper school. In the process, he becomes a minor celebrity when interviewed by the Ottawa Citizen for his stance against The Powers That Be.

     Other action ensues such as the continued rivalry between Rex and the school bully Stewart “Spew” Lessieur, his sister Annie Oakley’s itching powder revenge against the popular girls at school, and a growing romantic interest in Polly Goldstein. I was worried that at the third installment of Rex Zero, Wynne-Jones might be running out of ideas, but these characters still have plenty of life left in them, and I appreciated learning a little more about the mother’s story. With eight kids and counting, she is pregnant again at 43 and suffers a miscarriage. It is apparent that, while she loves her children, she is understandably a bit fed up with life.

     The Rex Zero series also continues to hold the reader’s attention as the 1960s are rife with captivating material, including Russian paranoia, a black girl going to a white school and Rex’s first experience of seeing a woman teacher wearing pants to school. Whether the details are miniscule or part of a bigger picture, to a 12-year-old such as Rex and the boys who will read these novels, this is the stuff that adventures are made of. Readers will also identify with Rex and his friends’ obsession with the Hardy Boys and their projection of the stories into their everyday lives. With Rex Zero: The Great Pretender, Wynne-Jones continues his streak of writing Canadian historical fiction for 10 to15-year-old boys that is actually entertaining to read, and teachers and librarians will thank him for that.

Highly Recommended.

Jen Waters is the Teen Services Librarian at the Red Deer Public Library in Red Deer, AB.

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

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