Children's Literature - Kris Sauer
First, be warned: this is not a diary book. Instead, it is a wonderfully written book about a young boy's struggles to deal with a traumatic event AND a move to a new city and school. Jeremy often wakes up screaming from nightmares. Between the memories that trigger those nightmares, the leg scars he retains as a macabre memento, and the challenges of a brand-new environment, well, he can be forgiven perhaps for being a bit out of sorts. But Jeremy also is saddled with the most challenging kid in his class as his mealworm science project partner. Called Aaron "Cantwait" by his classmates, Aaron's hyperactivity is a challenge and a half. Jeremy soon learns, however, that there is more to his science partner than meets the eye. How Jeremy comes to terms with his own trauma, deals with Aaron and the mealworm experiments, while sharing a hidden talent and making some good friends in the process is the focus of this excellent book for middle readers. Never heavy-handed, it tackles some very real issues, like dealing with scars and death and learning to be true to yourself in a realistic fashion, that will no doubt resonate with young students. This would be an excellent read-aloud for a late elementary or early middle school classroom. Reviewer: Kris Sauer
Still mourning the death of his father, Jeremy finds that his new life in Toronto is made more difficult by an impulsive classmate, his assigned partner in a long-term science project that involves the mealworms of the title. Aaron "Cantwait" not only has difficulty staying on task, he is awkward and clumsy, but he sees Jeremy as a friend. By day, Jeremy struggles to distance himself from the boy and fit into his new school; at night he relives the motorcycle accident that killed his father and injured his leg, an accident he believes he caused. In spite of his mother's patient understanding, he is mortified that his nightmares make him wet the bed. This moving first novel deftly weaves these serious issues into a realistic depiction of an ordinary boy moving forward despite his loss and doing the right thing by his troubled classmate. While Jeremy is the focus of the third-person narrative, his growing interest in a girl and involvement in coeducational sports activities-cross-country track and rope skipping-will add interest for all readers of this poignant tale. (Fiction. 9-12)
Leaving the Library blog
"A finely crafted blend of humour, drama, and suspense. The measured and compelling revelation of Jeremy’s dark secret is well balanced by scenes from his science and gym classes as well as the development of his relationship with Milly. The plot has some nice, realistic surprises and a satisfying as well as uplifting conclusion. Highly Recommended."
Once Upon a Bookshelf blog
"I devoured this book, and enjoyed every second of it...[I] was impressed that (even though heavier topics were covered) it was such a light, easy and entertaining read."
"The characters are multi-dimensional as they struggle not only to be cool, but nice. This is a satisfying read, and a good choice for younger students as they learn to get along with the other students in their class."
Canadian Children's Book News
"Sensitively written…Highly recommend[ed]."
Quill & Quire
"Aaron's ADHD-type-behavioural problems are described with such accuracy that he jumps right off the page...There is real, raw talent here, evident in the character of Aaron, and in the depiction of classroom life."
"Kerz effectively conveys the insular social dynamics of a grade-school classroom and presents winning portraits of Jeremy and his understanding family and teacher. Readers will enjoy this quiet story as they absorb its simple but timeless message about the importance of kindness."
Southwestern Ohio Young Adult Materials Review Group
"A heartwarming story of friendship and kindness...A worthy read for public and school libraries."
"Kerz has produced a sympathetic character in Jeremy, troubled by his self-imposed guilt over the death of his father...The social implications of Jeremy's secrets are staged realistically; the interactions at home, in the classroom, and on the playground ring true."
"A wonderful, sensitive story...[the] characters extend understanding even to those who have not personally felt this hurt."
A Patchwork of Books blog
"Kerz does a wonderful job of connecting a mealworm's simple life with a child's incredibly complicated one, and she does so in a manner that appears effortless...A short and sweet novel about friendship, love, loss, and insects, Kerz has integrated a whole bunch of themes into one marvelous one about discovery."
NMRLS Youth Services Book Review
"There's a lot of boy-appeal here…Themes of grief and loss, friendship, identity, and acceptance are all present and balanced against each other; no particular theme is superimposed too obviously over the others…A worthwhile book for kids who are grieving, moving, or even struggling to deal with an annoying classmate."
Read an Excerpt
"What're we gonna investigate?" Aaron said.
"You might want to investigate the art of listening," Mr. Collins said. "The rest of the class will study mealworms."
There were snickers. If Aaron heard, he didn't seem to care; he kept moving. His legs jiggled. He tapped his pencil on his desk. He hummed. His head bopped from side to side as if he was hearing music.
Weird kid, Jeremy thought.