________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 22. . . .February 12, 2016


On Cue. (Orca Currents).

Cristy Watson.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2016.
176 pp., pbk., pdf & epub., $9.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-1105-8 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-1106-5 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-1107-2 (epub)

Grades 4-8 / Ages 10-14.

Review by Stephanie Johnson.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



I was looking forward to grade eight. I would finally have freedom. Finally get away from the responsibility of looking after my brother all day long. I hear what the other kids say when we pass by. There goes that girl and her brother. Did you hear him wailing in the assembly last year? Do you know he’ll repeat swearwords if you say them? Then they spew a bunch of bad words and wait for Toby to repeat them. Laughter usually follows.

They judge me by my brother. High school was going to be my chance to stand on my own.

Then Mom crashed my party. I have to walk Toby to and from his school. Every day. That means five blocks out of the way. That means the end of my social life.

No chance to be normal.


Randi has spent her entire life living in her brother’s shadow. Even though Randi is the older sibling, she has grown up taking care of her brother Toby who has autism. Toby is a great brother, and Randi is very close with him. However, she cannot help but feel she deserves more time to herself. Their mother refuses to get a respite worker, and so it is up to Randi to care for Toby when their mother is at work. This situation becomes increasingly complicated when Randi finds out her one passion, drama class, can only be held after school, precisely the time when Randi has to pick Toby up from his school. What proceeds is a series of deepening lies as Randi sneaks Toby to her drama practices after school without telling her mother. When her mother finds out about the deception, the question becomes one of whether or not Randi will be able to continue with her dream of becoming an actress.

     As part of the “Orca Currents” series, On Cue is aimed at reluctant readers who might also be experiencing difficulties with their reading. The book is a quick read, written in a fast-paced style that has the plot constantly progressing due to the action and characters. The straightforward vocabulary makes the book accessible to a wide range of students, but the text is not so simple that it becomes noticeable. The author also takes advantage of short, concise sentences to ensure comprehension and interest in her readers although this style does consequently sacrifice the depth of the novel to appeal to this specific audience. One of the appealing factors of On Cue is its contemporary subject matter comprising school, classes, crushes and family. Almost any youth could find something to relate to in this book, and the addition of a character with autism creates a unique element to appeal to even more people. While Randi occasionally comes across as a whiny teenager, she nevertheless exposes realistic concerns that affect every teenager and the weights that are put on their young shoulders. A great book for struggling readers, On Cue will appeal to a wide range of readers with varying abilities, and it could also be a good text to introduce students to the concept of empathy.


Stephanie Johnson is a graduate of the Master of Library and Information Studies Program from the University of Alberta.

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

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