________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 23. . . .February 19, 2010


Only in the Movies.

William Bell.
Toronto, On: Doubleday Canada, 2010.
218 pp., pbk., $14.95.
ISBN 978-0-385667692.

Grades 8-10 / Ages 13-15.

Review by Tanya Boudreau.

*** /4

Reviewed from Uncorrected Proof.



My lunch was the usual dull, sturdy sandwich (ham and cheese today) and fruit (an apple) and juice box. I watched enviously as kids strolled into the cafeteria, lofted their brown bags in a graceful parabola toward a garbage can and took a spot in the food line for chips and gravy or a wedge of lukewarm pizza. I couldn't bring myself to do the same. I'd feel guilty tossing away the health-conscious, nourishing, no-additive -and tasteless- lunch Mom had made for me, and I'd hear a Dad sermon in the back of my mind running on about wasting food when half the planet's poor people…blah, blah. So I bit dutifully into my sandwich, looking around for my friends.

And that's when I saw her come in, alone, her deep brown eyes darting back and forth. She didn't look so confident now. To my surprise, she headed toward me and stopped at my table.

"Are these seats taken?" she asked, as if she expected me to say yes.

"Er, yeah, sure," I said. "I mean, no. No, they're not."

A pause.

"No, go ahead," I replied.

She dropped a brown bag on the table and set her carry-all on the floor. "Thanks," she said, sitting down opposite me. "You were in that English class I visited this morning."


Jake was 10-years-old when he started working with his dad. Before he started seventh grade, he had built his own shed. His first cabinets were designed and completed by grade nine. Jake, like his father, is an excellent carpenter, but his career aspirations involve making movies, not cabinets and sheds. When Jake sees "Cyrus Blanchard and Son" written on the work van, he knows it's time to tell his father the truth. After they talk and come to an agreement about work and school, Jake's father helps him transfer into the York School of Arts. While attending grade 10 at his new school, Jake studies Creative Writing, Dramatic Arts, and English class, builds the sets for the school plays and takes the role of stage manager for a Taming of the Shrew production. Two students catch his eye during the school year, but for very different reasons. He does figure out whom he's really in love with, but not before he tries conveying his feeling for both in two very different ways.

Jake's best friends, Instant Grady and Vanni O'Riada, are the comedians in this book. Readers may chuckle when they read how Vanni handles people staring at her large nose, and how she stirs-up a class, and at the various ways Instant can be so smart and yet act the opposite. When Jake's father is rushed to the hospital for an emergency procedure, the story shifts from comedic romance to near-tragedy, but it allows Jake to clarify his thoughts about love and his future plans. In this book, Jake learns there is more to love than beauty, and to go after your dreams- even if a failing grade stands in the way.

Divided into acts and chapters, this story, narrated by Jake, incorporates short screenplays into the story. They show how Jake is feeling, and whom he'd like to turn to when he needs advice. There is also an impassioned scene involving part of a Shakespeare play that causes some discussion and grade controversy among the students and teachers in the book that readers may find interesting. Teens who are interested in film and screen writing should enjoy getting to know the characters in Only in the Movies.

Award-winning author William Bell was born in Toronto, ON. A former teacher, Bell has written many books for youth including Stones, The Blue Helmet, Forbidden City, and Zack.


Tanya Boudreau is a librarian at the Cold Lake Public Library in Cold Lake, AB.

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

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