________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 2 . . . . September 14, 2007


Rex Zero, King of Nothing.

Tim Wynne-Jones.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood/House of Anansi, 2007.
221 pp., pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 978-0-88899-799-9.

Subject Headings:
Family-Canada-Juvenile Fiction.
Canada-History-1963-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Jen Waters.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reader Copy.


I look at the next page. There's a picture from Armistice Day. Madame Vitaline Lanteigne from New Brunswick laying a wreath at the War Memorial on behalf of all the mothers of Canada. She had five sons. Three of them were killed in World War II; the other two were wounded.

Five kids – almost the same as my family.

I try to imagine Cassie, Letitia and Annie – all dead.

“Have you got any more, Mrs. Norton-Norton? Ah, good. Off you go, Rex and Flora Bella. Oops! Sorry about that. We'll dig those bullets out and you'll be good as new!"

No wonder Dad gets depressed around this time of year.

It's November, 1962, and 11-year-old Rex Norton-Norton (Rex Zero) wants to save the day. How he does it really doesn't matter, but his superhero tendencies are weighing heavily on his psyche, and he must act upon them. One day he finds a black address book in a telephone booth, and, after deducing that it does not belong to Clark Kent, his new mission is to find the book's owner. Needless to say, Rex and his friends from Rex Zero and the End of the World still have overactive imaginations and are talented at creating drama for themselves to ward off boredom, but in this novel they also gain a little more insight into the adult problems faced by their parents, teachers and friends. While it is 17 years after the war, its repercussions are still being felt in 1960s Canada; it has resulted in fractured families and the creation of new relationships (of the war widows and the men who survived but were ultimately changed) and Rex seeks to find the truth about his father's secret life during the war.

     As in Rex Zero and the End of the World (which is not necessary to the understanding of this novel), Wynne-Jones has again created a wonderfully textured story very specific to 1960s Ottawa that almost certainly reflects his own childhood experiences. Wynne-Jones's skill is most apparent in the cast of memorable characters who are so well-drawn that readers feel as if they were sitting right in the living room listening to the kids stomp up and down the stairs. Rex's largely sarcastic family is demonstrated particularly well in one scene in which Rex's older sister Cassiopeia brings her boyfriend home for dinner. Readers young and old will be reminded of their own hilarious family dinner stories filled with wise-cracking brothers, sisters and parents trying to scare off potential suitors.

     Rex Zero: King of Nothing is an engaging historical novel that will widely appeal to 10-15 year olds, as well as librarians and teachers who are constantly seeking new material for 12-year-old boys.

Highly Recommended.

Jen Waters is the Teen Services Librarian at the Red Deer Public Library in Red Deer, AB.

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

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ISSN 1201-9364
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