________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 5 . . . . November 2, 2001



Boys' Own: An Anthology of Canadian Fiction for Young Readers.

Tim Wynne-Jones, ed.
Toronto, ON: Penguin Canada, 2001.
297 pp., cloth, $26.00.
ISBN 0-670-89304-8.

Subject Headings:
Boys-Juvenile fiction.
Children's stories, Canadian (English).

Grades 6-10 / Ages 11-15.

Review by Valerie Nielsen.

***1/2 /4

It is hard to think of a Canadian writer better qualified to put together a book of short stories for young people than Tim Wynne-Jones, himself not only a gifted novelist but also a superb writer of short stories. He has three collections of short stories, one of which, Some of the Kinder Planets, won the Governor General's Award in 1995. He has received more than a dozen international awards both for children's and adult fiction, as well as the Vicky Metcalf Body of Work Award. With a background of literary achievements like these, it is no surprise that Wynne-Jones has a nose for a good story, one that really "hums and crackles." According to the author's introduction to Boys' Own, a collection of twenty pieces of writing, including three excerpts from novels, the essential elements of a hum-and-crackle kind of story are "believable and appealing characters, an intriguing plot, and the right words to do the job."

     As to why Wynne-Jones picked the particular stories he did (apart from just plain liking them), he writes, "I thought about what goes down in the Boys' Zone: champs and bullies, strangers in a strange land, the lure of danger, getting lost in the wild, catching the big one, scoring the goal, and scaring the pants of your brother." All of these themes are represented in Boys' Own. It is a wonderfully eclectic collection of writing, with stories that span a range of time from 1000A.D. through the Second World War to the present, and genres from historical to realistic to science fiction.

     Many of Canada's best known and loved writers for young people are represented in this anthology. Brian Doyle's "Pincher" is a stunning story which will keep a reader puzzling for a long time. Ken Roberts' little gem,"Tennis Champion," will have readers chuckling delightedly. Richard Scrimger, whose comic touch -- Wynne-Jones calls it "terminal nuttiness"-- burst onto the YA literary scene in The Nose From Jupiter, has contributed a story called "Looking Down I Can Just See," a wonderful blend of hilarity and poignancy. "The Book of Days," by Nova Scotia writer Lesley Choyce, is a bizarre but touching science fiction fable which holds a chilling warning for our world. The text of a picture book set in Newfoundland by well-known illustrator Ian Wallace, two stories from First Nations' writers Jordan Wheeler and John Cuthand, a selection by Martha Brooks entitled "The Tiniest Guitar in the World," the requisite hockey story (in this case, Wynne-Jones own "The Ghost of Eddy Longo") make up some of the highlights of this remarkable collection.

     Boys' Own should become a treasured resource for language arts teachers from grades 6 to 9, who are often in search of modern short stores to teach the elements of fiction, as well as appreciation of the genre. Most stories in this fine collection will appeal equally to both sexes, although Boys' Own may prove more useful to teachers than its sister anthology, Girls' Own, since boys seem harder to entice into fiction than girls. It is unfortunate that the drab, uninspiring cover of this excellent anthology depicts two grim-faced boys carrying hard-covered tomes (no jackets on these books!) marching along as if to an unpleasant duty. Librarians will be quick to see the dust jacket as a drawback in "selling" the book to young readers.

Highly Recommended.

Valerie Nielsen is a retired teacher-librarian who lives in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364