________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 4. . . .September 23, 2011


The Yo-Yo Prophet.

Karen Krossing.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2011.
125 pp., pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 978-1-55469-827-1.

Grades 7-9 / Ages 12-14.

Review by Nicole Dalmer


Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



For this routine, I had to stay up late, practicing in the darkened shop. A few of the tricks still make me nervous, especially the atomic bomb – the one I messed up most often. I'm not sure I can do it under pressure.

I toss a few vertical punches, trying to work my way into the zone.

Calm down. Breathe. You can do this.

I think only of my feet on the milk crate, the string around my finger, my yo-yo flying through the air.

When I can imagine pulling off my first tricky flawlessly, I suck in a load of oxygen and begin.

I throw a hard-sleeper and pinch the string about a hand's length from the spinning yo-yo. I swing the yo-yo in a small circle a few times and then release the string, tugging the yo-yo back to my hand. A pinwheel. I repeat it three more times, turning on my box after each toss, hoping people from every direction will come to watch my show.


Calvin Layne (nicknamed ‘Low-Cal' due to his small stature) is a high school student who's simply trying to get by. With a deceased mom and a father who has since left, Calvin now lives with, and looks after, his ailing grandmother. Working in the dry-cleaning shop that his grandmother owns, Calvin finds comfort and purpose when practicing and performing yo-yo tricks. After his first street performance, fellow high school student Rozelle and her gang of girls demand a cut of his earnings and, despite Calvin's opposition, become his management crew. To increase donations and build local media buzz, Rozelle claims that Calvin can forecast the future, touting him as the "Yo-Yo Prophet". The hype surrounding Calvin's yo-yo predictions spirals out of control, and his grandmother becomes increasingly ill and contemplates selling her long-standing business. While yo-yoing brings about a sense of control, Calvin ultimately realizes that he must also take direct action to bring about change in his and his family's lives.

     Karen Krossing has created a fresh and engaging story that was intricately crafted, yet easy to follow. Of particular note were the different terms and descriptions for yo-yo tricks and techniques. The explanations and descriptions of the different yo-yo skills that Calvin was adeptly practicing and mastering were done in such a way that I could easily envision what he was doing. This particular element would be especially useful for readers as evidence of effective descriptions of potentially foreign concepts. I also appreciated the realistic portrayal of high school life. As Calvin's confidence increased and as he sought to fit within the high school hierarchy, aided in part by his successful yo-yo performances, he weaved his way in and out of difficult decisions, with some being more successfully resolved than others.

      Krossing excelled in the description and development of her characters, and I became intimately acquainted with each of the characters, their mannerisms and the rationale behind their actions. Similarly, the vocabulary, sentence structures and slang used by different characters was in perfect alignment with their descriptions and portrayals. While the character descriptions were impressive, I found the details and explanations of the various scenes and settings to be slightly excessive, and over time, this made the read feel slightly onerous.

      Finally, while the pacing of this book carried on at a comfortable pace, aided by the use of well-constructed dialogue, the ending felt rather rushed. Though my questions were answered, I wish the author would have lingered around the concluding chapters a bit longer, adding a few more details or sections of dialogue, evening the pacing of the writing throughout the entire book.

      A large component of the success of The Yo-Yo Prophet lies in its innovative plotline coupled with superior character development. The reader is privy to Calvin's fascination and aptness with a yo-yo, adding an enhanced level of playfulness to this highly enjoyable read.

Highly Recommended.

Nicole Dalmer is entering her second year of the MLIS program at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, AB.

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

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