"Frizzell reaches deep into the psyche of high school students...[and] respectfully emulates the voice of a teen."
"Frizzell mixes the right ingredients to please middle school boys."
NMRLS Youth Services Book Review
"This is a perfect title for struggling readers and will appeal to a variety of teen readers."
Canadian Book Review Annual
"The author has succeeded in capturing what teens think and feel. Highly recommended."
Washington State Young Adult Review Group
Children's Literature - Kathleen Foucart
When a new English teacher arrives, narrator Sean thinks he will finally get a chance to have a writing mentor, the way his best friend Chill has always been encouraged in art classes. Sean reasons with himself that Mr. Sfinkter (pronounced Sf-I-nkter) is only harsh to his students because he is trying to prepare them for the real world. But Chill knows better; he knows Mr. Sfinkter is really just cruel. The different views on their teacher cause a rift to form between the two friends, but when Mr. Sfinkter finally breaks Sean's trust, Chill does something to show just what kind of teacher Mr. Sfinkter really is. Sean, in turn, tries to help Chill when Chill's act might get him expelled. Chill is a very interesting character and more description of him and his thoughts would have been nice, especially during the middle of the book when a lot of the story is Sean's own rationalizations about Mr. Sfinkter. The story line, however, is one many students will relate to, though hopefully most will not have had teachers quite so horrible. A thought-provoking yet easy book to read, this is one that younger teens, especially boys that are reluctant readers, should give a chance.
KLIATT - Lisa Carlson
Sean's best friend Chill has had a limp all his life. Yet, no one picks on him as one might expect. In fact, Chill's equanimity makes him well respected amongst his classmates. Chill is also a superb artist, and it is this talent that earns him the opportunity to paint a mural at the school entrance as a parting "gift" from his senior class. Initially, he intends to paint inspirational and pop culture figures until he endures the new English teacher, Mr. Sfinkter, a self-absorbed, abusive individual who seems to enjoy demeaning students on a regular basis. A rift between Sean and Chill emerges as Sean decides to trust a promise made by this teacher, while Chill remains skeptical. When Chill's doubts are confirmed, he decides to take action in the only way he knows how: by changing the mural. What he eventually paints becomes the center of an end-of-the-year controversy that raises questions about Sfinkter's teaching methods, and his reason for becoming a teacher in the first place. Strong emotions create a backdrop for Frizzell's novel: fortitude, longing, jealousy, frustration, disappointment, anger and revengeall generated by one man, Sfinkter. This is understandable given this character's personality. However, the character interactions with and reactions to this nefarious teacher raises some good discussion questions: "What qualifies a person for teaching," "What makes a good/bad teacher," and perhaps most relevant to the readers, "How should a student respond to an abusive teacher?" Chill is a good read for all teens, especially for the less popular and the artistically inclined. Frizzell develops his major and minor characters equally well; each is unique andauthentic, behaving in ways that, although somewhat predictable, are believable and realistic. This is one of the better Orca Soundings novels I've read.
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up
Chill is a talented artist. He also has a disability, a crippled leg. It has been a significant issue in his life, but it has made him a better artist by channeling his frustration. When a campaign ensues to have a mural painted at the front of the school, he is awarded the job. In the meantime, he has an immediate adverse reaction to his new English teacher. Chill's friend Sean, who narrates the story, wants to be a novelist and finds Mr. Sfinkter's attitude below par, yet wants to like him. Sfinkter promises to have one of his "publishers" look at the boy's work, which endears him to Sean but causes a rift between the teens. As the year progresses, the man repeatedly insults students, claiming that he is getting them ready for the real world. Chill's distaste for the man increases. When the mural is finally unveiled, he has painted a mad clown (Sfinkter) squishing the dreams of the kids in the school. The novel offers an interesting portrayal of how a teacher can affect a student's life. It is also a commentary on responsibility and the right and wrong way to approach issues that may come your way. Though it is written for teens in terms of plot and character, the content itself is based on a 3.5 reading level, making it perfect for struggling and reluctant readers.
Emily GarrettCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Read an Excerpt
Chill's foot dragged behind him like a murder victim being taken to a shallow grave by a killer too weak to do the job—but he still stood straighter than any other kid in school.