________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 7. . . .October 17, 2014


A Year in the Life of a Total and Complete Genius.

Stacey Matson.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2014.
258 pp., hardcover & EBK, $14.99 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-4431-3317-3 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-4431-2868-1 (EBK).

Grades 3-7 / Ages 8-12.

Review by Kay Weisman.

**** /4



Dear Ms. Whitehead,

As you know, I haven’t been in class yet, but my next door neighbor Nicole suggested that I write you a letter since I will be starting soon. I don’t really know what to write to you. Maybe I will tell you a little about myself so that you feel like I started school at the same time as everyone else.

My name is Arthur Aaron Bean, but I normally go just by Arthur. I spent the summer at my grandparents’ house in Balzac. It was a long summer. I actually live in one of the apartment buildings pretty close to the school. I like to knit and watch movies, sometimes at the same time. I’m a very good multi tasker. I like creative writing, so I hope that we will do that and that I didn’t miss it. I was probably the best writer in my elementary school, and I plan on getting rich as a novelist when I’m a grown up. I don’t have any siblings, but my cousin Luke is kind of like my twin brother.

My most profound work so far is the heartwarming story called “Sockland.” In this short story, a little boy climbs into the dryer during a game of hide and seek with his older brothers. He is accidentally shrunk and crawls through the dryer vent into Sockland. Sockland is a land where missing socks go to live. . . .


Using a combination of notes, class assignments, journal entries, and emails, Matson reveals the details of Arthur’s grade seven school experience. A character of contradictions and mysteries, Arthur enters school in October; later we learn that his mother died unexpectedly the previous spring. His writing suggests Arthur is supremely confident (see above), but evidence mounts that this hubris is really a cover up for the truth that he rarely reveals even to himself. Since his mother’s passing, he is unable to complete a piece of writing unless it is plagiarized or is a bitter rant.

      Luckily for readers, Arthur’s problems are most often addressed with humour. His poem, “An Ode to Knitting”, concludes: “Most people say that it’s geeky / That a boy who makes sweaters should quit / But that’s when I say something cheeky: / I tell them, ‘It takes balls to knit!’” And his school newspaper article expresses what many grade sevens feel about Remembrance Day assemblies: “Certainly there were better poems in the grade seven class than this overwrought free verse. . . .The poems were followed by the obligatory two minutes of silence, one of which was punctuated by a teacher’s cell phone ringing.”

     Strong secondary characters are an added bonus. Crush Kennedy Laurel (whose email address is imsocutekl@hotmail.com) writes in clichés and acronyms, focussing on hairstyles and couture, but she manages to get Arthur involved in the newspaper and a school production of Romeo and Juliet. And long time nemesis Robbie Zack, a classmate who struggles with spelling and grammar, becomes an ally of sorts when he trades Arthur his short story for a chance to play Romeo against Kennedy as Juliet.

     This novel began as a graduate thesis, but it hardly feels like a freshman debut. At once funny, outrageous, thoughtful, and informative (the creative writing assignments comprise a roadmap for fiction writing), this is a story with something for everyone, and Arthur’s is a voice readers won’t soon forget. Give to fans of Susin Nielsen’s Word Nerd and stock up on extra copies to meet demand. Two sequels are promised.

Highly Recommended.

Kay Weisman, a librarian and reviewer, now writes “Information Matters” for School Library Monthly and works as a youth librarian at West Vancouver Memorial Library.

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

Copyright © 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
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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