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

cover

Jailbird Kid.

Shirlee Smith Matheson.
Toronto, ON: Dundurn Press, 2010.
156 pp., pbk., $12.99.
ISBN 978-1-55488-704-1.

Grades 7-10 / Ages 12-15.

Review by Wendy Williams.

** /4

Reviewed from Unedited Manuscript.

   

excerpt:

ďI didnít hear Dad leave Monday morning. The next time I saw him he was in the hospital.Ē (p. 95)

ď....his pictures were disrupting...So was he...sort of. He didnít seem like the same man who had painted the clowns. But he was my Dad, so I loved him. And now he had come home. Maybe for good this time.Ē (p. 32)

Jailbird Kid is the story of Angela, a 15-year-old girl, her mother, and the father who is a petty thief and aspiring gangster. Just out of jail, Angelaís dad has only a Grade 10 education and seems to be incapable of improving his job prospects with education or training. Angela is busy with school and the usual teenage fears about friends and image. She is also frightened about her dadís ability to adjust to normal life, to be the average secure dad she longs for. She has two stable influences in her life, however - her mother who is proving to be a capable single mother, and her grandmother. Both are strong women who are more than capable of making a reasonable life without the jailbird dad, but loyalty keeps them from breaking free. Angela is torn between hope and despair over her dadís future in the family.

    This novel has some good ideas and the basis for an interesting family conflict, but the details seem strangely dated and unreal. The setting seems to be deliberately vague, with nothing that gives the location any credibility or reality. Also, details of the dadís life after jail seem to be somewhat lacking in research. No mention is made of a parole officer or any training that the father might have been received in jail. There is no mention of any training programs or help offered at the job centre or any official help in adjusting to civilian life. The references to Al Capone and other gangsters serve to indicate the immaturity of the dad, but they seem a little dated. I would also suspect that, in a small town, everyone would have known of the fatherís jail sentence. With some editing and a credible setting, perhaps the emotional conflicts would be more convincing.

Recommended.

Wendy Williams is a teacher-librarian in Calgary, AB.

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

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