CM . . .
. Volume XVII Number 32. . . .April 22, 2011
The Luck of Jude.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2011.
106 pp., pbk., hc., & ebook, $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.), $8.95 (ebook).
ISBN 978-1-55277-705-3 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55277-736-7(hc.), ISBN 978-1-55277-706-0 (ebook).
Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.
Review by Myra Junyk.
Reviewed from Uncorrected Proof.
It's Friday afternoon. The second week of school is almost over. I can hardly wait for the weekend to start. I'm supposed to visit with my dad at his restaurant tomorrow. I haven't seen him in ages. I love going to his restaurant.
But right now it's recess and I'm looking for my best friend, Sanjay. I'm trying to find out what he wants to do today after school. We're in grade four, which feels pretty much the same as grade three. The only thing that's different is that we have a new teacher and there's a new kid in our class.
Jude Bhandari is shocked to find his best friend, Sanjay, fighting in the schoolyard with Terence Jones, the new student in their grade four class. Terence has just moved to Canada from England. and is having a hard time fitting into his new environment and an even harder time making friends. Jude and Sanjay have never been involved in a fight before this incident. Is violence really way to solve problems? Is Terence a bully?
Jude's teacher asks him to work with Terence on a class project, and, in the process, the two boys learn to tolerate each other despite their differences. Their project involves gathering chestnuts from the tree outside Terence's home in order to play the game of "conkers," a game that Terence played back home in England. Both boys love the game. When Jude suggests that Sanjay join their project group, the three boys realize that they can have fun together being the "conkerers!"
This novel marks the first standalone fiction title for children from James Lorimer. This is also the first chapter book for author Andrew Larsen whose picture book, The Imaginary Garden, was nominated for the 2009 Governor General's Literary Award for children's illustration. At times, the plot of The Luck of Jude is overly simplistic. Jude's "luck" is being hit on the head by chestnuts, and it eventually causes him to come up with a solution to the problems he is facing in the classroom. The conclusion is predictable. When the three boys decide to work on the project together, everything is solved! The violence disappears, and they all become friends.
The strength of this novel, however, lies in the central character of Jude. His life is anything but simple, and he copes with change by making lists. His parents are divorced, and he lives with his mother and grandmother, Nani, who has raised him and acted as his moral compass. She helps him realize that Terence is acting like a bully because he is frustrated with his new life in Canada. She also helps Jude cope with his anger against his neglectful father. At one point, Jude even calls his father an "ass."
The Luck of Jude deals with issues of prejudice and bullying. Terence is an outsider and recent immigrant from England, and Jude and Sanjay help him to adapt to the Canadian environment. The issue of bullying – or intimidation through physical, verbal abuse or social exclusion – is also dealt with in this novel. Bullying of innocent victims happens each and every day in Canadian schools and communities. Teachers and caregivers can use this book as a read-aloud to begin a dialogue about bullying. Questions could include: "What is bullying? What forms does it take? How do you respond? How does the victim feel? Why do people bully others? What does this novel teach readers about bullying?"
Myra Junyk, who lives in Toronto, ON, is a literacy advocate and author.
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