CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 2. . . .September 13, 2013
This quote from Philip Roy’s novel, Me & Mr. Bell, perfectly illustrates our hero Eddie’s relationship with most adults. Eddie has a difficult time understanding the complexities of the English language. He wonders “why was the word hurry spelled with a u and the word worry spelled with an o when they sounded the exact same?” As a result of his inability to easily grasp the written word, his parents and teacher have simply given into the idea that he will never learn. However, Eddie understands numbers better than anyone he knows, can do complicated mental math and is very interested in how and why things work the way they do.
Eddie’s story takes place in rural Baddeck, Nova Scotia. The community is excitedly waiting for the return of its most famous resident, Alexander Graham Bell. Bell, according to Eddie’s father, is the smartest man in the world. A chance encounter with Mr. Bell at Bras D’Or Lake changes Eddie’s outlook about his own capabilities. Even though he is faced with criticism and doubt on a daily basis, Eddie learns to accept his unique ability and to apply it to challenges faced by him, and ultimately, by his family.
Eddie is a character that readers can really get behind and root for. With the story being told from Eddie’s point of view, readers can understand what exactly it is about reading and writing that is difficult for Eddie, and they also understand what it is about numbers and math that inspire him. Eddie, as the narrator, allows for the story to be as engaging as possible.
Me & Mr. Bell would be a great addition to a classroom library and history lesson. The story introduces readers not only to Alexander Graham Bell as the inventor of the telephone but also to his work with deaf individuals. There is a wonderful scene in which Eddie meets Helen Keller, and the lessons that he learns from her (determination, resourcefulness) help to develop his own journey. Bell’s work developing the Silver Dart also plays a major role in this book.
Roy has created a fantastic story, with a likable main character. The story is inspirational and leaves an impression that will not be soon forgotten: trust in your own abilities, and you will go far.
Gillian Green is a children’s reference librarian in Woodstock, ON.
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