CM . . . .
Volume VII Number 15 . . . . March 30, 2001
The three boys sat in silence for several more minutes, then the short, round figure and bulging eyes of Mr. Duncan, the principal, blew in through the door. To many people in the school system, Mr. Duncan looked like a frog, and today, he looked like a frog on a mission. An exciting mission.Charlie, Jeffrey and Sidney are all in the seventh grade, and all are spending too much time in the principal's office. Charlie talks nonstop, Jeffrey is too frightened to talk at all, and Sidney would much rather let his fists hold up his end of the conversation. But this time, their principal, Mr. Duncan, decides that the usual punishment of detention will not solve these problems. Instead, he orders them to attend karate lessons taught by his son, Willie Duncan.
The results of the first lesson are predictable as Charlie tries to talk his way out of any activity, Jeffrey doesn't even show up, and Sidney gets in a fight. But slowly, things turn around as each of the boys finds himself in situations he had never encountered: for once, Charlie can't talk his way out of things; Jeffrey is developing a confidence even he didn't know he possessed; and Sidney, for the first time, is in a place where his fighting skills don't help him. To make matters worse, he's being outmaneuvered by a girl.
The novel is charming and sure-footed. Trembath, an accomplished and award-winning author for teens, keeps the plot well-paced and the messages light handed. He's especially adept at characterization. His characters are humorous without being caricatures. I grew quite fond of all three boys, as well as their quirky parents and grandparents. I was impressed with Trembath's ability to flesh out characters in just a few sentences.
An excellent choice for the reader ready to move on from beginning chapter book series. The books says ages 9 to 12, the press material 8 to 12, which I think is more realistic. There's certainly no difficult content to prevent even a strong seven-year-old reader from enjoying this terrific novel.
Liz Greenaway is a former bookseller living in Edmonton, AB.
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