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Phyllis Green.
Illustrations by Patti Stren.

New York, Harper & Row, c1983.
121pp, cloth, $13.95.
ISBN 0-06-22140-2 (trade edition), 0-06-022141-0 (library edition).

Grades 3-7.
Reviewed by Gudrun Wight.

Volume 12 Number 5
1984 September

Readers who expect an exciting plot to follow the arresting title will be disappointed. The storyline is slight: a series of generally humorous episodes loosely unified by their perception through the consciousness of Brad Gowan, the protagonist, and the recurrent theme, self-actualization.

Brad, a perceptive but unathletic twelve-year-old, is aware that he is a disappointment to his father, a former football star, who nonetheless loves him. His parents go on a trip to Bermuda, leaving Brad and his four-year-old sister, Fat Nancy, with an imaginative baby-sitter, Phoebe Hadley. Brad knows that Phoebe will have a new hobby to try out on her charges, like the time she was studying first aid and tied him in bandages. This time Phoebe has taken up witchcraft, and her spells almost seem to work. Interrupted while casting a spell for a boyfriend, she finishes with an incantation for a werewolf. The ice cream delivery-man whom they subsequently let into the house has Brad worried until Phoebe assures him that her spells are only harmless entertainment for the children she babysits.

Phoebe and Brad share a bond, in that Phoebe's parents want her to live their kind of life, not her own. The theme of self-realization is repeated in the image of the stork in the zoo, a bird with clipped wings trying to fly. By the end of the tale, Brad exhibits more confidence in being himself.

A charming portrait emerges of a sensitive adolescent with a keen sense of humour. Indeed, characterization is the author's forte, demonstrated by her delightful depiction of Fat Nancy and Phoebe. Unfortunately, the book is flawed by inadequate editing. The "laugh-a-minute" family next door faisl to show themselves funny. Intriguing characters such as Brad's mailperson grandmother and Karen Kuddly, the dance instructor, are unnecessarily introduced and then disappear.

This is entertaining reading, enlivened by numerous drawings by Patti Stren, but the book fails short of the quality demanded by restricted budgets.

Gudrun Wight, Faculty of Education, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB.
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