Morton's bristly Scottish brogue emphasizes the fish-out-of-water stature of Colfer's protagonist Benny, an Irish lad who finds himself transplanted, along with his family, to Tunisia. Benny is forced to leave his favorite game of hurling behind, and must struggle with a new school very different from what he knew; he takes solace in meeting Omar, a new friend who helps him adjust to the lay of the land in his new home. Morton reads with a sincerity that helps him serve up Colfer's smooth prose with aplomb. Fans of the author's Artemis Fowl fantasy series will find an entertaining change of pace in this contemporary, more character-driven text, though still plenty of adventure. Ages 10-up. (June)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
VOYA - Karen Jensen
Colfer has quite the following of supernatural fans with the entertaining Artemis Fowl series, and they may be surprised when they pick up the more realistic Benny series, originally published in the U.K. in 1998. In Benny and Omar, Benny, a lover of hurling (similar to field hockey), is forced to move with his family to Tunisia. The culture shock is amazing, and he finds it difficult to adjust. Soon Benny befriends an orphan named Omar. When Benny learns of Omar's mentally challenged sister living in an institution, the two set out on an adventure to try to rescue her. Throughout the book, Benny grows and learns to think of others besides himself. In the sequel, Benny and Babe, Benny spends his summer with his grandfather in the country. As a "townie," he tries to find his way "in" with a group of locals through his love of hurling. But he is surprised when he is outmatched by a girl named Babe and her dog. The two soon try out a money-making venture that attracts the interest of local thug Furty Howlin. Throughout the books local Irish colloquialisms and dialect are used, which can sometimes be challenging. Younger teen readers will enjoy and be able to identify with the comedic adventures of Benny. According to the O'Brien Press Web site, Benny and Babe became a number-one bestseller in Ireland and knocked Harry Potter out of the top spot.
Benny Shaw is a scrappy 12-year-old who wants nothing more than to join his hurling team in their attempt to win the All-Ireland Final. But when his father is transferred to a job in Africa, Benny's whole world changes. No one in their new Tunisian home has heard of hurling and no one appreciates Benny's cheeky sarcasmuntil Omar comes along. Omar is an orphan who lives by his wits and speaks English only in television phrases. He and Benny become fast friends, which involves Benny sneaking off from the village and taking breakneck rides on Omar's decrepit motorbike. Omar is also determined to save his younger sister from a mental hospital, and of course Benny is enlisted to help. Their adventures are told in a funny, sardonic voice with a quickly shifting perspective. Some degree of stereotyping is present but not overwhelming; issues of loyalty, along with occasional touches of real emotion, add a fully human feeling. Readers who like sports and fast-paced adventures will love both the plot and the challenge of puzzling out Omar's television-talk and the Irish and Tunisian slang. KLIATT Codes: JRecommended for junior high school students. 1998, O'Brien, dist. by Independent Publishers Group, 237p., $7.95. Ages 13 to 15. Reviewer: Rebecca Rabinowitz; Virginia Haviland Scholar, Ctr. for the Study of C , September 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 5)
School Library Journal
Gr 5-9-As the hurling champion at Saint Jerome's school, Benny Shaw thinks he has a perfect life-until his parents move the family all the way to North Africa, a lifetime away from Ireland. They've never even heard of hurling in Tunisia. The village school is taught by feel-good hippies and filled with students actually bent on learning. There's no place for a sarcastic, self-centered kid like Benny. Then he meets Omar, a cheerful, scrappy boy surviving on his wits, and the two become fast friends, creating havoc and terrorizing everybody. But when Benny meets Omar's little sister, a drugged resident of the local mental farm, he realizes that his friend's life is more tragic than he had thought and realizes that he must help Omar rescue his sister. Suddenly Benny has to think of someone beside himself, and his ultimate change and personal growth make for a memorable story. At first it's hard to like Benny, even when he's trying to be decent, but Colfer does such a masterful job of mixing humor and tragedy with Benny's smart-alecky remarks that youngsters will like him in spite of themselves. This is a funny, fast-paced read, despite the Irish slang, that provides a wonderful glimpse into some very non-American worlds. -Linda Bindner, formerly at Truman State University, Kirksville, MO Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.