________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 23 . . . . February 20, 2015


Random Acts.

Valerie Sherrard.
Toronto, ON: Penguin Canada, 2015.
255 pp., trade pbk., $14.99.
ISBN 978-0-14-319104-9.

Grades 6-10 / Ages 11-15.

Review by Mary Thomas.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



The first random act I decided to do was to help the Kimuras, an elderly couple who live three houses down on our street. I don't know exactly how old they are, but my guess is they've passed their expiration dates. His face is puckered like an apple that's wizened and dried out, while hers is a mass of wrinkles that droop down around her chin and jaw. They're both so frail and bony you'd almost expect them to blow away in a strong wind, and they walk bent over, shuffling like they've dropped something and they're looking for it.

The Kimuras get the same paper we do, and our new paperboy has really lousy aim. When I go by their place on my way to school the paper is always on their walkway, or somewhere on the lawn, or almost anywhere
except on the veranda where it's supposed to be.

I've seen Mr. Kimura retrieving it, and it's a sad sight. First he peers around, squinting and poking his chin forward this way and that. Then when he finally sees it, it takes him a good ten minutes of shuffling to to get it.

So, for my first random act, I decided I would take the paper to their step whenever it's way off course.

I'd have started right away, but ...

A story based on attempted good deeds that go wrong is not a new concept. (One calls to mind the cartoon strip of a succession of boy scouts escorting an old lady back and forth across a busy street until, when the scout master attempts the same "good" deed, she bops him with her purse.) However, a club, or in this case, two clubs devoted to good deeds, or random acts of kindness, can compound the problems as Zoey finds out. She and her two best buddies decide to do random acts anonymously in response to the formation of the Lend a Hand club by a best enemy who specifically does not want one of their trio to be included. The other two will be "allowed" to join, an offer they immediately and huffily reject. Zoey, however, has second thoughts when she is re-invited into the club by a boy on whom she has had a crush for some time and who has never noticed her before. In the end, she joins them both.

      Naturally, difficulties arise. Just why all of Zoey's good deeds, without exception and even the one which involves working with Dennis (the heartthrob), go wrong is a mystery. Surely she could have done something right! However, while none of her "good deeds" are appreciated, the elderly Japanese couple whom she attempts to help in two different ways ends up accepting her apology for messing up by saying, "You stop good deeds now, please." It is all a learning experience for her.

      Zoey also comes to realize her hope that her parents might come back together again after their divorce just isn't going to happen. (Her mother, when asked point blank if she ever wishes she were still with Zoey's father answers, "No, but I sometimes wish I still wanted to be with him." I found that an interesting insight, and one that might well stick with even a young ish reader.) Her father might even be thinking about dating someone else—someone else not of her choosing! Accepting that parents are people with needs and desires of their own is a sometimes painful part of the growing up process, and Sherrard has caught this right on.

      In fact, Random Acts is a very funny insightful novel about growing up that kids will love. Adults won't have any problems liking it either.

Highly Recommended.

Mary Thomas lives and works (from time to time) in Winnipeg, MB schools.

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

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