This is a book that is in both the Forest of Reading under the Red Maple section and in the intermediate Battle of the Books. It’s the story of a grade eight boy who learns several important lessons about the power of words.
The book has a great beginning, the first line starts “The day I almost died..” which hooks the reader and makes you want to know more about how this “almost” happened. Ambrose, the main character, has moved around a lot with his mom, his father died before he was born. He has a very over protective mother who is over-cautious with her son and often treats him as if he is unable to make decisions for himself. Ambrose has a severe peanut allergy and his mother limits his contact with the world because of this. Ambrose uses words to build a world of make-believe, initially lying to try to make friends and protect himself and later lying to his mother to help protect friends he has made.
There are many interesting characters that are well portrayed, the Three Stooges are grade eight students who torment Ambrose at school, Ambrose’s mother is a desperate woman who will do anything to protect her son, and finally there is Cosmos who is everything that Ambrose’s mother is afraid of. The interactions of these characters keeps the reader hooked.
The setting of the book in Vancouver, BC and it’s great to read and recognize the places that Ambrose is talking about. His description of Granville Island is realistic and really helps you revisit the “Island” if you are familiar with it.
The language is authentic to a fourteen year old, it is certainly a book for intermediate students. The author Susan Neilson was a screen writer for Degrassi High as well as Robson Arms. She’s done a great job looking into the life of a teen ager who is desperate to find his place and put down roots.
Reading Ability: Intermediate level themes and language
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Themes: Growing Up, Determination, Bullying
Who would love this book? This book was a hit with grade eight boys. They appreciated the humour, language and underlying themes within the book. It is definitely a book that adolescents enjoy.