________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 5 . . . .October 27, 2006


Jared Lester, Fifth-Grade Jester.

Tanya Lloyd Kyi. Illustrated by Martha Newbigging.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2006.
74 pp., pbk. & cl., $8.95 (pbk.), $18.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55451-025-2 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55451-026-0 (lib. bd.).

Subject Headings:
Fools and jesters-Juvenile fiction.
Determination (Personality trait)-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Mary Thomas.

*** /4



[Professor] Krinklecut's palm magically appeared below the saucer before it hit the floor and the cup settled gently into place. He put them back on his desk without a single drop spilled. Jared gaped at him and Krinklecut stared back.

"I know you," the professor said finally. "I know exactly who you are. You see trouble, and you can't resist stirring it up. You see calm, and you want to make waves. You're never bored because you're too busy to be bored. But all that action, and you never achieve anything. In fact, you're never even sure what you want to achieve."

Again, Jared gaped at the professor. The angry feeling seeped out of him. He wanted to tell Krinklecut that his conclusions were all wrong, but even as he opened his mouth he knew that the professor was completely right.

"Always in trouble with the teacher for talking in class," the professor continued. "Always in trouble with your parents for breaking things, always in a hurry to get to the next activity. And today, you've decided your next thing it to be a court jester. [...] Are you serious about this? ... Completely serious?"

Jared nodded quickly.

"All right," Krinklecut said. "Start taking notes."


There is no suggestion that Jared Lester is hyperactive, or ADHD, or anything else that would cause this book to be labelled as being “about” some syndrome or other. He is certainly supercharged with energy, however, and lacks focus for any activity other than annoying his older sister until one day when he is bugging her as she attempts to watch her “princess movie,” and he happens to notice a background character who is doing back flips, juggling, and telling the occasional joke. This is a turning point for Jared! Here is someone whose job it is to do all the things that he, Jared, already can do, though admittedly less well. His career path is now set out, at least in his own mind - he is going to be a court jester! There are problems, of course, chief among them being that there aren't very many kings and queens around to employ such a person. Luckily, it just happens the Queen is actually going to be in town shortly, and there are to be auditions for the evening's entertainers. Jared determines to try out, but first he has to have more information. He pursues facts about jesters with single-minded determination and then sets about putting what he's learned into action.

     At this point, the story begins to verge on fantasy as he manages to put Professor Krinklecut's precepts to work. It is good fun, however, to see him turning from loser to winner, taking the bull out of the school bully, saving a little old lady from a driver more interested in his cell-phone conversation than his steering (useful propaganda!), and ultimately, entertaining the Queen. In a way, this is one long shaggy-dog story; and so I won't spoil the surprise by revealing what Jared concludes is the modern equivalent of the medieval jester. You must read it for yourself. And while it is not a book “about” any particular problem condition (a definite plus in my books!), it does hold out hope to parents that their own, non-problem but really antsy kid may also, one day, find something that he really, really wants to focus on. Kids will just enjoy the book.


Mary Thomas works in the library of an N-8 elementary school in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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