________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 16 . . . . December 16, 2011


I Owe You One. (Orca Young Readers).

Natalie Hyde.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2011.
126 pp., pbk., $7.95.
ISBN 978-1-55469-414-3.

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.

Review by Lisa O’Hara.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.


      I Owe You One, by Natalie Hyde, is the story of how Wes (never Wesley) incurs, and then pays back, a life-debt. He owes the debt to Mrs. Minton, an old woman who is a family friend and who has lived in his town for a very long time. When Wes loses his hat in the creek and ends up falling in trying to save it, Mrs. Minton fishes both him and the hat out of the creek and doesn’t tell his mother what happened. Later, she saves Wes from his mother’s wrath again when he and his friend, Zach, leave a gate open, allowing a horse to escape and get stuck in a swamp. The two friends are covered in swamp mud themselves trying to get the horse out, and Mrs. Minton lets them clean up at her place, and she washes their clothing for them. Again, she doesn’t inform their mothers about the trouble they’ve gotten into.

      Wes’s father is recently deceased and, before he died, he tried to give Wes all the advice he would have given him growing up:

Most guys only have to hear that kind of fatherly advice once in a while. Usually when they get in trouble. When my dad knew he wasn’t going to be around all that long, he started throwing around advice at every possible opportunity. It was like an avalanche of wisdom on everything from why I shouldn’t throw spitballs at girls (A man always treats a woman with respect, Wes. You’ll understand why that’s important someday) to why I had to turn in the lottery ticket I found outside Lee’s (A man doesn’t keep what doesn’t belong to him, Wes).

      One piece of advice from his father that Wes clearly remembers is, “A man always pays his debts.” Consequently, when the television transmitter in town is destroyed and Mrs. Minton is in danger of not seeing her granddaughter ski her first race as a member of the national ski team, Wes is determined to pay his debt by ensuring that she can watch the race. Bedridden after a bout of pneumonia and a hip replacement, Mrs. Minto will only be able to see the race if the transmitter is fixed. And the only place a replacement part can be found is Florida. To make matters more complicated, the only payment the Floridian will take is snow (in July). Wes begins to work on the problem and finds himself in the position of having to make deals with all sorts of people to ensure that the transmitter part arrives in time. The toughest deal he makes is parting with a comic book that his father left him which is meant to finance the purchase of a dirt-bike, but the words his father left him with and the debt he owes to Mrs. Minto are, in the end, more important to him.

      I Owe You One is an entertaining book. All the hoops Wes and Zach have to jump through to succeed and the characters they meet along the way are entertaining and will keep readers wondering how it will possibly all work out well in the end. The strong moral message in the book will delight the readers’ parents, but Hyde manages to make her point without being preachy, and Wes is a fairly normal 11-year old boy to whom who children will relate. The plot moves along quickly, and the writing is appropriate to this age group, making it a great choice for children, especially boys, in this age group.

Highly Recommended.

Lisa O’Hara is a mother of three and a librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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