________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 22. . . .February 7, 2014


Running Scared.

Beverley Terrell-Deutsch.
Markham, ON: Red Deer Press, 2013.
166 pp., trade pbk., $11.95.
ISBN 978-0-88995-503-5.

Subject Headings:
Bullying-Juvenile fiction.
Teenagers and death-Juvenile fiction.
Parents-Death-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.

Review by Daphne Hamilton-Nagorsen.

** /4



Tuesday morning was sunny and hot. Except for all the red and yellow trees that used to be green, it could have been summer. How many leaves are on that tree? The question suddenly inserted itself into Gregory’s brain. Would there be a million? He realized with a little shock that, though he had been looking at trees his entire life, he had no idea, NO IDEA how many leaves might be on one of them. How weird was that! But how would you count the leaves on a tree?

Would you take one branch, count the leaves on it, then count the number of branches and multiply? That would be such a rough estimate, though. No, that wouldn’t work. Weigh the tree with and without leaves, weigh one leaf and divide? Too difficult, and you’d have to cut the tree down to weigh it.

Gregory realized he’d been standing, thinking about the leaf problem rather than getting to school. This morning, of all mornings, he didn’t want to be late. The first planning meeting for the Save Our School campaign was at 8:30 and he had to be there. Besides, he’d already been late for school four times, and he knew from experience that five times late meant an automatic detention.


Running Scared is the story of Gregory and his challenges after the death of his father. Gregory’s father died a year earlier in a car crash. Gregory cannot face the place where the crash occurred and has had to rearrange things in his life to accommodate this situation, including taking a different route to school. Gregory’s school is going to be closed in a few months, and the new bus stop will be close to the site of his father’s death. Gregory and his friends decide to help the “Save Our School” campaign while Gregory tries to face the car crash site.

     Gregory has a strong interest in numbers and mathematics that seems to have grown stronger since his father’s death. He can easily lose himself in contemplation of numbers and number patterns, even forgetting the test he is supposed to be writing, or making himself late for school. This is an interesting trait to add to Gregory’s character. While not all readers will share Gregory’s interest in numbers, they will be able to relate to the consequences of his interest.

     While the characters are interesting, Running Scared feels like it is missing important information, mainly about Gregory’s parents. We know Gregory’s father died a year earlier in a car crash, Gregory was in the car, Gregory is having problems going to the place where the crash occurred and Gregory’s father was a local minister, but nothing else. We do not get much of a sense of the relationship between Gregory and his father, and almost less about the relationship between Gregory and his mother. Gregory’s mother is still alive and appears in a couple of scenes but feels very remote. Some of this is intentional as she has been remote from Gregory over the past year, and this is reinforced by the reader finding out more about Gregory’s friends than his mother. However, more information about all the characters would help the reader relate to the characters and the events.

      Some of the events in Running Scared have the same feeling of incompleteness as the characters. The big talk that Gregory has with his mother, a talk in which he is going to tell her all about what has been happening and his problems going to the place where the crash occurred, does not appear in the book. Readers are told that the talk is going to happen, and the next events take place later in the day, a situation which can leave readers checking to see if they accidentally turned two pages instead of one. While the result of the talk appears to be a closer relationship between mother and son, readers are left curious about what happened during the talk. The omission of some events and character information can leave readers feeling disconnected from Gregory and the other characters.

     Even with the lack of information about some characters and events, Running Scared will have appeal for some readers.


Daphne Hamilton-Nagorsen is a graduate of the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC.

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

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