________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 40. . . .June 18, 2010


Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom.

Susin Nielsen.
Toronto, ON: Tundra, 2010.
229 pp., hardcover, $20.99.
ISBN 978-0-88776-977-1.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-14.

Review by Ann Ketcheson.

**** /4



The Wiener arrived just as Rosie and I finished cleaning the house. We’d had to hang up our coats and put away our shoes and take all our stray toys, books, homework, dolls, games, sweaters, and socks up to our bedroom. Then we’d thrown out all the granola bar wrappers, snot rags, and strands of dental floss that covered the coffee table in the living room. After that, Mom hauled out the vacuum cleaner and vacuumed the whole main floor – even under the couches, where the really big dust bunnies lived. I told Rosie I could hear them scream as they got sucked up, which made her cry, so Mom made me apologize. Then, while Rosie escaped to the basement, I had to help Mom wash all the dishes that had piled up during the week. Our house hadn’t been this clean since she’d dated Jonathan.

The Wiener, aka Dudley, remembered to knock this time. And he’d brought a gift for the house. It was in a rectangular box, wrapped in pretty metallic paper. Rose and I gazed at it hungrily, convinced it was chocolates.

“Go ahead and open it,” he said, grinning.

Rosie tore apart the paper and opened the box.“What it is?” she asked, her nose wrinkling like she’d just smelled a bad fart.

“It’s a soap dish,” I told her.

“How thoughtful,” Mom said as she appeared from upstairs, wearing too much makeup and a blouse that was too tight. “Pretty and practical.”

I could tell from the look on Rosie’s face that Dudley had just gone down a notch in her estimation. Which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

When Violet’s dad leaves the family and heads to Los Angeles with his new wife and twin babies, he causes a crisis. Violet’s mom is sad at first, but then she is determined to attract a new man, even if that means inappropriate clothes and makeup. Unfortunately, every new boyfriend is a loser and certainly can’t replace Violet’s dad so Violet is determined to take action. After some discussion with her best friend, Phoebe, Violet writes a letter to George Clooney. He’s talented, good-looking and rich – who better to marry her mother and become part of the family

    Nielsen has created an amusing and attractive character in Violet, whose imagination and spunk will endear her to readers. Some of her antics are hilarious – for instance, when she and Phoebe put their detective skills to use to spy on prospective boyfriends. Even when Violet misbehaves, such as enticing the little twins to eat dog turds, readers may be shocked but will still chuckle.

     The other characters in the book are well-described and interesting. Violet’s mom is complex and goes through the roller coaster emotions of divorce and being a single parent with sometimes doubtful help from friends Karen and Amanda. The parade of potential mates is hilarious, and each man has real personality, even if he makes only a brief cameo appearance. Violet’s friend, Phoebe, is the trusting and helpful ‘right hand man’ while Thing One and Thing Two fill the bill as typical tween bullies at school. Nielsen has created an entire world around Violet, and readers quickly become immersed in it.

    On a more serious level, Nielsen looks at just how difficult divorce is on those involved. The parents in the novel cope in completely different ways, often putting their own interests ahead of those of their children. Readers see the girls’ awkward relationship with a new stepmother. Violet and her younger sister, Rosie, seem especially true to life. Rosie acts out at school and has started to wet her bed. Violet tries to help her mom at home but feels the pressure of her dad’s being away and the seemingly never ending series of boyfriends. She, too, may lash out or may try to be in control, arranging her books alphabetically or putting the containers on a shelf in order of size. Violet has sworn off love, knowing that it is just too dangerous, and that includes Jean-Paul, the good-looking guy who has just arrived in her class! While the book in entertaining and full of humour, Nielsen still captures the chaotic feelings of her characters caught in the midst of a marital crises.

   The ending may be a bit contrived, with Violet getting along with her step-mom and siblings and seeming happy that her mother and Dudley are seriously considering marriage, but that doesn’t lessen the enjoyment of the book. After careening through so many events and emotions and literally crashing near the end of the story, Violet deserves a “happy ever after” ending. You may want to shake some sense into her; you may want to hug her. You won’t be able to ignore her! Nielsen has created a story that is both funny and touching and well worth the read. Perhaps she will continue to entertain readers with more of Violet’s adventures in a future book!

Highly Recommended.

Ann Ketcheson is a retired teacher-librarian and high school teacher of English and French who lives in Ottawa, ON.

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

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