CM . . .
. Volume XXI Number 7. . . .October 17, 2014
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 firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.
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.
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other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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.