________________ CM . . . . Volume IV Number 1 . . . . September 5, 1997

cover The Leftover Kid.

Joanne Stanbridge.
Red Deer, AB: Red Deer College Press, 1997.
176pp., paper $9.95.
ISBN 0-88995-160-8.

Subject Headings:
Stepfamilies-Juvenile fiction.
Prime ministers-Juvenile fiction.
Mystery fiction.

Grades 3 - 6 / Ages 8 - 11.
Review by Harriet Zaidman.

*** /4


But for some reason these days I only wanted to read The Happy Dooleys on Location. I read it again and again. I read it so often I practically memorized it. When I climbed into bed at night, I dreamed I was the twelve-year-old Lucinda, sitting prettily in the department store's window, modelling a velvet dress until a talent scout discovered her. I knew exactly how the other Dooleys reacted when my movie offer came and how it felt when we all moved to Hollywood and what it was like at the movie studio, where I charmed the aging actress and helped the leading man find his lost sweetheart, and how homesick we all became and how we returned at last to our big old house in Middleville, Illinois. I knew things about the Happy Dooleys that weren't even written down in the books.
The Leftover Kid is an imaginative, humorous novel that uses Canada's most famous address for its setting. Willa Killick-Whimsey is an 11-year-old with a problem. Her mother has married Jordan Sweetwine, the Prime Minister of Canada, and has taken Willa to live at 24 Sussex Drive. To complicate matters, the Prime Minister is a widower with a set of 11-year old-quintuplet girls who have been protected and sheltered from the real world all their lives.

      Willa is an ordinary fun-loving girl who can't get used to her mother marrying again, especially to the Prime Minister. She misses her father and romanticizes life before her parents' divorce. She can't adjust to the cloistered life and finds the quints horribly dull. They've never been to a MacDonald's or done most things other children their age have done because of the constant fear of kidnapping. Willa's rambunctiousness gets her into trouble with the Prime Minister and her mother, who, to Willa, is becoming a bossy socialite who favours the quints over her own daughter. Willa's curiousity uncovers a potential kidnapping plot, but her pre-teen gullibility causes her to miss the real danger. Her dad starts a sad, but funny, campaign to win his ex-wife back, and Willa assists without his knowing. The jumble is all resolved at the end. The dad and Willa resolve their relationship with Willa's mom, the enemy is caught, the quints become a little more human thanks to Willa, and the family situation settles down. It's not the way Willa had envisioned, but everyone can adjust to it.

      Kids joining blended families often have feelings of alienation and long for their old family. Joanne Stanbridge acknowledges all the emotions that run through a child's mind in her portrayal of Willa. She also lets Willa play and learn while being upset at the same time. Willa is just a normal kid. Placing the setting of the book in the Prime Minister's residence is a nice Canadian touch in mass market books. The humour created by Willa's imagination and shenanigans make this book very readable for the target age group. Kids will be able to identify with Willa's ups and downs.

      The adult characters of the mom, dad, housekeeper, and nanny are developed as Willa figures out how to deal with the world. The quints' personalities are only developed towards the end as Willa teaches them how to have fun. The Prime Minister is a man whose busy life doesn't allow him to have fun or be a father, but, with Willa's persistence and appeal to Sweetwine's sense of logic, they reach an understanding.


Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg.

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

Copyright © 1997 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364