CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 3 . . . . September 29, 2006
Annie is not the only one fascinated by Communists – all of Ottawa seems to be caught up in the paranoia and excitement of the Cold War. Air raids, bombs shelters and gas masks are on everyone's mind, and television specials on Cuba and the Soviet Union only fuel the fire. As 11 year-old boys, Rex and his friends are similarly obsessed with the prospect of nuclear war, but they do not fully understand what is happening which leads to some interesting theories on their behalf. They are also attempting to track down a panther that has escaped from a zoo and have been drawn up in the story of Alphonse (nicknamed Dump Orbit), an old French veteran of the Great War who has been more than a little "unhinged" by his experiences and is prophesying the end of the world.
Wynne-Jones does a masterful job of capturing the time period in a novel that will not only appeal to boys today, but to their great uncles and grandfathers as well. His skill is in the details, seen as he describes the streets of Ottawa, the activities of Rex and his friends, and the distinct personalities of Rex's many sisters. The novel's afterword explaining the similarities between Rex and Wynne-Jones is appreciated but almost unnecessary: the reader is so taken up by the details that it is quite obvious to hear Wynne-Jones, himself, grew up in Ottawa (after moving from Vancouver) during the Cold War.
Hearing the boys talk is much like listening to some of my tween and teen friends at the library discuss their theories about global warming and World War Three; there is evidently some knowledge of history and current events, but it is mixed with a much larger dose of imagination that comes from comics, books and films (and more recently, video games and the Internet). Many of the theories shared by Rex and by my more modern day friends do not really make much sense and at times are quite implausible, but they certainly are amusing to hear. I predict that any boy or young teen who has "played" at war (which in reality, is most or all boys) or thought about the end of the world will sympathize with Rex and greatly enjoy this novel.
Jen Waters is the Teen Services Librarian at the Red Deer Public Library in Red Deer, AB.
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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.