CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 2 . . . . September 14, 2007
Arlo is upset - really upset - that his mother is forcing him to move from perfect Victoria, British Columbia, to East Bend, Alberta. Victoria is great, in Arlo's eyes; after all, it was in Victoria that he was toilet-trained and spent his first 6 1/2 years of school. What does East Bend have to offer him? Snow and hockey. Arlo explains, "It was so cold, I thought my eyeballs were going to freeze solid and roll out of their sockets." But worse than the cold is the realization that everyone plays hockey and he is the only kid in Canada that can't skate. He knows that living in East Bend is going to be a disaster. And his first day at school proves it.
In Klutzhood, by Chris McMahen, Arlo tells the reader his own story with all the emotion and exaggeration of a frustrated 12-year-old. McMahen's humorous writing style will open the reader's eyes to the very real conflict felt by students who want to belong but don't really know how. Arlo's use of hyperbole adds humour while deftly depicting how easily a youth can find himself making uncomfortable decisions in an effort to fit in, or, in Arlo's perspective, in an effort not to be an outcast.
To avoid this fate worse than death, Arlo lies, evades and eventually tries some forbidden stunts in the hopes of becoming a Dumpster Dude - a group that will accept his hockey deficiencies. How Arlo is able to get himself out of his uncomfortable predicament and find a place in his new school is hilarious.
Chris McMahen's plot is driven entirely by Arlo's perceptions, flawed though they may be. This technique is particularly effective in creating tension and suspense in the plot. I wanted to see if Arlo would give the other students a chance to accept him before he passed the trials and became a Dumpster Dude.
My co-reviewer is an eight-year-old boy who does not play hockey. He said that he doesn't like playing hockey at school either because he doesn't want to look stupid. He indicated that he really liked Arlo and thought that he was funny. He gave Klutzhood four stars. Klutzhood has the potential to be the Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day for the 8-12 crowd.
Jonine Bergen works at Westdale Junior High in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.