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“Leo” seems to have taken over Jamie’s life. He eats when and what he wants, speaks only when he needs to. Soon it becomes impossible for the family to cope with his frightening, unpredictable behavior. Only Josh understands his brother’s moods, but is he brave enough to break through Jamie’s unhappy mask,...
“Leo” seems to have taken over Jamie’s life. He eats when and what he wants, speaks only when he needs to. Soon it becomes impossible for the family to cope with his frightening, unpredictable behavior. Only Josh understands his brother’s moods, but is he brave enough to break through Jamie’s unhappy mask, and save them all?
Writing in the voice of a smart, sensitive 13-year-old boy, Newbery tells the story of a blended family whose members share a sense of love and purpose that carries them through difficult times. The birth of a new baby is a happy occasion and the Bowmans, or, as they like to call themselves, the Bowpersons, rejoice when baby Jennie joins her half brothers, Jamie and Josh. Both boys experience angst over the attention being paid to her; for Josh, the feelings are normal and easily superseded by his love for his sister. However, for Jamie, the addition of Jennie to his home with his mother and stepfather, combined with the announcement that his father and his girlfriend and her son are moving in together, pushes him into selective mutism. As the story unfolds, Josh's well-developed voice evokes the love he and Jamie feel from all three parents, while expressing the feelings of children and teens when they have to deal with changing families. Throughout, Josh's fascination with cats large and small, tame and wild, is developed through his inserts of facts and drawings in his "Book of Cats." In addition to the likable characters, the story provides an example of people working through problems without yelling or abuse. It is refreshing to read about this loving family, reminiscent of those created by Madeleine L'Engle.-Wendy Smith-D'Arezzo, Loyola College, Baltimore, MD
An eerie psychological tension drives this unsettling account of two brothers challenged by the ever-evolving nature of their family. Josh and his younger brother Jamie have been through a lot of changes. Although their divorced parents have maintained a friendly relationship and work hard to respect and reassure both boys, that doesn't change the fact that their worlds have been turned upside down, most recently by the birth of their half sister. On a trip to a wildlife park, Jamie undergoes a strange experience in which he believes a lion has communicated with him, and thereafter his behavior takes a turn for the bizarre. Josh, while coping with his own feelings of displacement, puzzles over how to help him. Jamie's odd conversion is chilling, and Newbery crafts a compelling picture of this loving family while deftly avoiding melodrama. However, the ending feels hasty, and though a scrapbook about cats maintained by Josh is central to the story, the inclusion of excerpts disrupts rather than enhances the narrative flow. (Fiction. 10 & up)
From the Hardcover edition.