________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 8 . . . . December 7, 2007


TJ and the Quiz Kids. (Orca Young Readers).

Hazel Hutchins.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2007.
128 pp., pbk., $7.95.
ISBN 978-1-55143-731-6.

Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10.

Review by Shannon Ozirny.

*** /4


And in the midst of all the studying, I still didn’t tell my parents that I was going to be on Quiz Kids. I could maybe manage to stand up on stage with Quiz Kids and not fall apart, but I didn’t want the extra pressure of having Mom and Dad watch me. Every once in a while, however, I did share an amazing fact with them.

“Did you know frogs can use their eyeballs to eat?” I told them over supper Thursday night. “They can actually drop their eyeballs down below their eye sockets to help push food down their throat.”

“Amazing,” said Dad. “Strange. Bizarre. Slightly gross. But totally amazing.”

TJ Barnes is an endearing protagonist with a slight shy streak and an unshakable love for cats. A penchant for zany facts lands TJ on his school’s Quiz Kids team, but TJ struggles with his role in the spotlight. Thanks to his hyper-active, hyper-inquisitive best friend, the support of his Gran, and the calming presence of his beloved cats, TJ manages to overcome his insecurities in this enjoyable, original read. 

     TJ and the Quiz Kids will especially appeal to young readers who normally shun fiction. Hazel Hutchins weaves dozens of off-the-wall facts into her narrative, and this keeps the storyline entertaining and upbeat. Hutchins also laudably cites all her bizarre fact sources in a recommended reading list. Indeed, this early chapter book may just serve as the antidote for kids stricken with an addiction to facts, figure, and statistics. 

     Unlike stereotypical young male characters, who are usually pre-occupied with sports, video games, or comics, TJ’s love for cats and facts is a unique combination that will ring true for readers of both genders. Followers of the series will remember when TJ’s cats were just kittens in TJ and the Haunted House and will enjoy hearing all about their humorous new hiding places. 

     TJ and the Quiz Kids is an all-around crowd pleaser by one of our nation’s most prolific authors. Hutchins’ latest TJ title is a great choice for a first novel study or a dependable remedy for information book-itis. TJ and the Quiz Kids proves that knowledge comes in all shapes and sizes, and this message will be enthusiastically received by kids more interested in barf than binomials.


Shannon Ozirny is in the Master of Arts in Children’s Literature program at UBC, and was surprised to learn that there are three billion possible ways to play the first four moves in a chess game.

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

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