Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Review of Rex Zero, King of Nothing by Tim Wynne-Jones

11-year-old Rex Norton-Norton (aka Rex Zero) made friends and conquered an ersatz panther in Rex Zero and the End of the World by Tim Wynne-Jones (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2007). Now he’s back in Rex Zero, King of Nothing (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2008) and dealing with problems ranging from a mysterious and moody Dad (does Rex has a long-lost half-brother??) to a nasty teacher to a beautiful woman with an abusive husband. This last is rather a stretch, plot-wise – Rex and his friend manage to chase away a brutal man, apparently for good, a deed that even a grown-up might find hard to accomplish. But that is the charm of these two books. Rex may be hindered by a lack of context and understanding of Adult Issues, but this also allows him to make leaps of faith that a grown-up might be too inhibited to perform. There are a number of sly and subtle jokes that younger readers might not get but that add another level of humor for older readers.
Bottom line – Rex Zero is a realistic and appealing hero, 1962 Ottawa is faithfully and affectionately portrayed, and both boys and girls in grades 4 to 6 will find this an enjoyable, if not hugely action-packed, read.

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