Children's LiteratureWe begin this quick read in a principal's office with three highly unlikely candidates for martial arts classes. But when the principal decides to enroll them in a karate class, in lieu of detention, things begin to happen for Charlie, Sidney and Jeffrey. Slowly, the three begin to understand how karate might hold some meanings for the real world. This is a terrific scenario, but unfortunately the rest of the story doesn't quite live up to it. Tremblath's humor is likeable, but his narrator's voice is patchy. Point of view shifts erratically and unevenly, and the ambience of a karate do jang seems contrived. 2001, Orca, . Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Uma Krishnaswami
VOYAChatterbox Charlie, meek Jeffrey, and feisty Sidney end up in Principal Duncan's office at the same time one day but not for the same reason. Called Frog Face behind his back, Mr. Duncan decides to put all three in a karate class because he does not feel that detention will change their problems. Although there are several adjustments to be made and some resistance on the part of the boys, they also see challenges in the class. Macho Sidney gets decked by a high kicking girl; almost-mute Jeffrey learns to speak up; and Charlie, who never overextends himself, actually steps in to break up a fight. Best of all, the boys all want to continue taking the class. Trembath's simple plot is enlivened by the dialogue, especially that of Charlie, who tries to mislead, cajole, distract, or just plain lie without ever realizing how transparent and funny he is. Each boy also advances his relationship with and understanding of his mother, whereas fathers are frequently uninvolved in their lives or missing entirely. A basic karate vocabulary is explained through the instruction of the karate teacher, or sensai, during the early classes. Although predictable, this first book in the Black Belt series will be enjoyed by students looking for pleasure reading. VOYA CODES: 3Q 4P M (Readable without serious defects; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2001, Orca, 157p,
Pam Spencer Holley
School Library JournalGr 3-6-Three 12-year-olds are spending entirely too much time in the principal's office. Charlie depends on his "storytelling" skills to get out of any physical activity and never stops talking, Jeffrey is so shy that any thought of talking to another person paralyzes him, and Sydney would rather speak with his fists. Mr. Duncan knows that further detentions will not solve their behavioral problems, and comes up with an alternative-he enrolls the boys in a karate class run by his son. The youngsters are horrified when their usual coping strategies don't work in class: Charlie can't lie his way out of participating, Jeffrey has to fight back, and Sydney is knocked down on successive nights-by a girl. Over time they begin to realize that there are alternative ways of doing things and slowly begin to enjoy the classes. In his first book for younger readers, Trembath has produced a satisfying and humorous tale. As in his books for young adults, the characters have definite and entertaining personalities. This story will appeal to a wide age range, from children ready for something more than a beginning chapter book to older readers who appreciate a comical, fast-paced, and entertaining read.-Betsy Fraser, Calgary Public Library, Canada Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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