From the Publisher
"[A] gem of a novel . . . Graceful and touching."—Kirkus Reviews
"...A thoughtful exploration of a kid getting back in touch with his own heart."
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"This exceptional portrait...will fortify readers in their efforts to find their own spaces, much as Lenny learns to claim his."
—Starred, Publisher's Weekly
"Both Lenny and the reader will hang on to Muriel's quiet wisdom long after the story is over."—The Horn Book
This exceptional portrait starts out like a variation on Louis Sachar's inimitable There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom: the protagonist, nine-year-old Lenny, has exasperated teacher after teacher, his principal and his single mother, until he winds up in the office of the school's empathetic counselor, Muriel. Lenny's problem? He's brilliant but he cannot contain himself, and, as Banks (Dillon Dillon) demonstrates in slow, cautious doses, he has cut himself off from many of his feelings. He tells Muriel, for example, that although his father isn't an astronaut, he "went up in a space shuttle and is still orbiting around somewhere" (he abandoned the family). Encouraged by Muriel, Lenny, who never cries, strikes up a friendship with a boy he meets on the playground; experienced readers will know what is coming when Van turns out to have leukemia. The emotional wallop will hit hard anyway, thanks to the steady character development and the precise turns in the plot. Banks chooses symbols that her audience will both understand and like: Lenny's mother, for example, works as a hand model and therefore always keeps her hands encased in gloves. The author's pristine observations will fortify readers in their efforts to find their own spaces, much as Lenny learns to claim his. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature - Monserrat Urena
Lenny is a unique and gifted child. He lives a life with his preoccupied mother and nonexistent father. Emotionally alienated, he is constantly causing disruptions everywhere he goes. He does not have many friends and spends a lot of time in the principal's office. But his life changes when he meets two people: Van, a boy with leukemia who becomes his first friend, and Muriel who is the school therapist. This middle grade book gives the reader a deeply interesting main character. Lenny is both likeable and emotionally compelling. His story is an honest and painful portrayal of growth and loss that to the author's great credit never becomes maudlin. The tertiary characters in the story are interesting. Lenny's mother is particularly intriguing as she hides behind the many pairs of gloves she always wears. The older reader is left wanting to know more about Lenny's mother and the school therapist. The well-crafted story line drives the reader to finish the book in one sitting. This book is highly recommended and would make a valuable addition to a school or home library. Reviewer: Monserrat Urena
School Library Journal
Gr 3-6 Academically brilliant but emotionally stunted nine-year-old Lenny tends to drive people crazy. No one knows how to deal with him. That begins to change when he starts seeing Muriel, the school therapist. An after-school assignment he receives from the principal for inappropriate behavior leads to a serendipitous encounter with a boy named Vander James. Van is chronically ill, but it doesn't stop him and Lenny from enjoying shared interests and becoming best friends. As Lenny continues to work with Muriel and learns more about Van's leukemia, he begins to mature, identifying his emotions and coming to terms with them. Lenny's progress is not only poignant, but it also has carefully crafted underpinnings that add depth and richness. The boys build towers, an effective metaphor for the stretching and growth going on in Lenny's life. Subtle foreshadowing is sprinkled throughout: " ' Not all acorns grow into big trees,' said Muriel. 'That's just the way of life.' " Pitch-perfect dialogue and descriptions of every-kid pleasures such as negotiating a slippery slide make this book enjoyable on multiple levels. The cover is odd and off-putting, but don't let that keep readers away. This novel is just right for booktalking and for giving children the opportunity to develop empathy right along with Lenny. A small gem not to be missed.-Faith Brautigam, Gail Borden Public Library, Elgin, IL
In this deceptively simple gem of a novel, Banks tells the story of Lenny Brewster, a bright but lonely nine-year-old who is gifted with a curious mind and a strong mechanical ability, but lacks the facility to see the world from another person's perspective. Lenny believes that his father, who deserted the family, is stuck in space and unable to get home. The reader soon realizes that Lenny is stuck himself, that his lack of empathy and emotional immaturity restrict his capacity to fit in, follow the rules of everyday behavior and make friends. This frustrates the adults around him, especially his emotionally taut mother, cleverly conceived as a hand model unable to touch her son because of her protective gloves. In the course of the story, which is rendered in straightforward, unvarnished prose, Lenny gets help from a wise therapist and makes friends with a boy who has leukemia. As Lenny opens up to the feelings of himself and others, he gains a measure of compassion, taking his first steps in growing into a better person. Graceful and touching. (Fiction. 8-12)