CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 20. . . .February 3, 2017
Memoirs of a Sidekick.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2016.
238 pp., hardcover, $17.95.
Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.
Review by Christina Neigel.
I took the opportunity to reflect on Boris’s decision to run for president of the student council. Elections at Bendale are held in the spring to give the new council members the chance to get to know one another before the summer break. He had time to mount a campaign but I had some doubts – several, in fact. I picked one.
“Robert is going to be very difficult to beat,” I said. “He’s very popular.”
A look of grim determination settled over Boris. “If it was easy, I wouldn’t need your help,” he said. “You with me on Operation Save Our School?” He held out a fist.
I extended a fist of my own – and readied myself for another Snodbuckle adventure.
Boris Snodbuckle is a larger-than-life seventh grader who decides to right the wrongs of his school by running for student council president. As school underdogs, he and Adrian, his best friend and “sidekick”, launch a series of campaign initiatives to rally support and respect from their school peers. This is no easy task because both Adrian and Boris have been the subject of ridicule from their more popular peers and have suffered numerous unjust disciplinary measures from teachers and school administrators who repeatedly misunderstand Boris and Adrian’s intentions. Through Adrian’s eyes, the duo experience misadventure after misadventure in their quest to win the hearts of their schoolmates for the spring election.
This light-hearted novel, written by award-winning author David Skuy, draws on issues of bullying and misunderstanding that may be familiar to middle-graders. Boris Snodbuckle is a larger-than-life character who brings life to the story but also acts as an example of someone who “rises above” bullying and unkindness to do good things for others. The appeal of the book is, however, compromised by the wholly unrealistic situations and reactions of characters, including teachers and other students. Teachers and the principal, for example, tend to be incredibly unobservant and disinterested in the students. The power of the student council and the way in which discipline in the school is managed (i.e. the application of detentions and suspensions) does not fit with contemporary school policies and tends to be “over the top”. Further, the story tends to move too slowly for its length. While the plot is established early, the number of events leading to the climax of the story is lengthy and the buildup is slow.
Memoirs of a Sidekick is light and funny and will appeal to children who enjoy the genre of realistic fiction. However, the novel’s length does not appear to balance with the rather simple plot, and some readers may find their interest wane before reaching the climax.
Recommended with Reservations.
Christina Neigel is Associate Professor in the Library and Information Technology department at the University of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford, BC, and teaches courses on library services for children.
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