Growing Up Funny
- Norma M. Charles (Author)
All the Way to Mexico. Raincoast Books (purchase at Amazon.ca)
- Shelagh Lynne Supeene (Author)
My Name is Mitch. Orca Book Publishers (purchase at Amazon.ca)
Reviewed by Linda Pratt
In All the Way to Mexico, Jacob Armstrong is twelve years old and he is on a honeymoon—his mother's, that is. Thus begins Norma Charles' humorous and empathetic story about a blended family learning to come to terms with each others' food preferences (spicy Jamaican food or Kraft dinner), values (free-spending or thrifty), and pastimes (cow jokes or soccer). Not only are each of the characters working through their feelings about being in a blended family, but also about traveling together. At first each child clings to what is familiar in the midst of change in order to cope with being stuck in the same vehicle together. Gradually Jacob, his sister, and his step-brothers learn about what each of the others holds dear, perhaps not always amicably but with respect and humor. By the time Jacob and his family reach their destination, he discovers that giving of oneself is what all families have in common.
This is an enjoyable read for kids who loathe doing book reports as well as for those who have acquired step-siblings through a parent's second marriage. The characters are ones that readers can easily identify with from the soccer game, the school bus, or sitting in the back seat next to a sibling on a long family road trip. When Jacob's stepfather Fred states, "Sometimes we overlook the simplest and most obvious solutions," he is not only speaking of traffic jams but of each character coming to terms with change.
In My Name is Mitch, Mitch MacLeod is dealing with two creeps in his life, the class bully and his absent father. To make things worse, he is the shortest kid in grade 6 and the worst reader. Fortunately for him, his hard-working mother and free-spirited grandmother give him all the encouragement and love he deserves. With this support Mitch is resourceful enough to notice opportunities when they arise, whether it is meeting his father for the first time, or catching the class bully red-handed in a school prank. From these experiences Mitch learns who he is and how to stand up for himself. The adults in his life learn a thing or two about dealing and living with unspoken feelings.
Mitch is an endearing yet exceptional character who learns to read not just words but the actions and reactions of people around him. His perceptions of himself and the world around him realistically reflect those of any youngster who has lived with learning disabilities, single parenthood, or unfriendly classmates. These kids can change their worlds just by reading between the lines.
- Imagination Generated Imagery by Sean Somers
Books reviewed: Imagining Anne: The Island Scrapbooks of L.M. Montgomery by Elizabeth Epperly and 100 Years of Anne with an 'E': The Centennial Study of Anne of Green Gables by Holly Blackford
- Trois romans jeunesse à la courte échelle by Anne Scott
Books reviewed: La jeune fille venue du froid by Sylvie Desrosiers, Les ténèbres piégées by Bertrand Gauthier, and Véloville by Raymond Plante
- Nature Red in Tooth and Claw by Wallace Edwards
Books reviewed: The Painted Circus: P.T. Vermin presents A Mesmerizing Menagerie of Trickery and Illusion Guaranteed to Beguile and Bamboozle the Beholder by Wallace Edwards, Other Goose: Recycled Rhymes for Our Fragile Times by Barbara Wyn Klunder, Stones, Bones and Stitches: Storytelling through Inuit Art by Shelley Falconer and Shawna White, and Jack Pine by Christopher Patton and Cybèle Young
- Hope and Remembrance by Huai-Yang Lim
Books reviewed: Hurricanes Over London by Charles Reid, A Company of Fools by Deborah Ellis, and Irish Chain by Barbara Haworth-Attard
- Picturing Childhoods by Judy Brown
Books reviewed: A Fiddle for Angus by Susan Tooke and Budge Wilson, The True Story of Trapper Jack's Left Big Toe by Harvey Chan and Ian Wallace, and Ghost Train by Paul Yee
MLA: Pratt, Linda. Growing Up Funny. canlit.ca. Canadian Literature, 8 Dec. 2011. Web. 20 May 2013.
This review originally appeared in Canadian Literature #188 (Spring 2006). (pg. 130 - 130)
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