Record Breaker

Record Breaker

by Robin Stevenson
     
 

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It's 1963, and Jack's family is still reeling from the SIDS death of his baby sister. Adrift in his own life, Jack is convinced that setting a world record will bring his father back to his senses and his mother back to life. But world events, including President Kennedy's assassination, threaten to overshadow any record Jack tries to beat—from sausage eating

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Overview

It's 1963, and Jack's family is still reeling from the SIDS death of his baby sister. Adrift in his own life, Jack is convinced that setting a world record will bring his father back to his senses and his mother back to life. But world events, including President Kennedy's assassination, threaten to overshadow any record Jack tries to beat—from sausage eating to face slapping. Nothing works, and Jack is about to give up when a new friend suggests a different approach that involves listening to, not breaking, records.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
It’s 1963, the world is in turmoil, and so is the life of 12-year-old Jack in small-town Canada. Ever since the sudden death of his newborn sister nearly a year ago, Jack has been starved for attention; he hopes to snap his parents out of mourning and make them proud by breaking a world record. “A few weeks ago I tried to eat twenty-four raw eggs in less than two minutes and eleven seconds but threw up after the first seven,” he says. “Eggs, not minutes.” Jack’s resilience and sense of humor prove to be crucial assets as his father builds a fallout shelter, his depressed mother stays in bed, and President Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald are assassinated. When Jack meets an independent-minded new girl named Kate, it improves his iffy friendship with his irritating cousin Allan, who feeds Jack’s fears that his family might be cursed. Stevenson (Hummingbird Heart) gives Jack a straightforward yet sensitive narrative voice, constructing a believable portrait of the anxiety of this moment in history, as well as of how scary and lonely childhood can be. Ages 9–12. (Mar.)
CM Magazine
"Stevenson has crafted an enjoyable and moving tale. Jack is a relatable character, built with right balance of flaws and charm that allows the reader to truly explore and examine the story through his eyes...Stevenson's construction and use of dialogue is particularly notable. Word choice and tone matched the situations and characters perfectly, carrying forward both the plot and character development...Record Breaker is an enticing, well-paced read that will delight readers with its engaging dialogue, its historical setting and a well-developed cast of relatable characters. Highly Recommended."
Booklist
"A quiet novel that delves into difficult subjects, Stevenson's latest shines a warm light on both grief and friendship...A thoughtful evocation of an uneasy time on both a personal and global level."
CanLit for Little Canadians
"Stevenson shares the grief and fears and innuendo of a time unknown to most young readers. But, by making the focus in Record Breaker a local one, with the grief related to the loss of a family member...young readers will be able to empathize."
The Coastal Spectator
"[Stevenson] uses world records as a device to draw in readers and tell a deeper tale about love and loss and thinking beyond yourself...Her protagonist...[has] a solid, thoughtful personality and friends who are likeable for their quirks."
Library Media Connection
"This book will capture the attention of all readers, especially male reluctant readers. The historical references, combined with the unusual record-setting attempts, will keep the reader immersed. This book would also fit as a high interest, lower reading level selection for middle school readers."
Southwestern Ohio Young Adult Materials Review Group
"An excellent story of 12-year-old Jack and his family coping with the loss of another family member...What shines is Jack's determination to bring his mother out of her year-long depressive slump and connect with her authentically once again...Recommended."
Canadian Children's Book News
"Stevenson has captured the innocence of childhood in the face of serious issues while maintaining an enjoyable sense of humour. Jack’s struggle to come to terms with his feelings of helplessness over his mother’s depression is not only powerful, but his childlike understanding, creative solutions and enduring love for his mother will touch any reader."
VOYA - Tanya Paglia
Ever since Jack's baby sister died, his mom has not been herself. Her unhappiness prompts Jack to do something that will make his mom smile again and remember that she still has a son who loves her. It is not an idyllic time for anyone. Jack's father begins work on a bomb shelter in their backyard because of the threat of nuclear war by the Russians. The world has gone nuts, is what many are saying. When he meets Kate, along with her mother, Jack grows more confident about his situation even with everything going crazy in the world. He is on a mission to get his name into The Guinness Book Of World Records, and it is much harder than he imagined. He has eaten raw eggs, rocked for hours in a rocking chair until his dad made him stop for dinner, and even talked his friend Alan into face-slapping one another. Record breaking is not easy; but neither is being twelve. Robin Stevenson has written a heartwarming and humorous story about a boy going through adolescence during a turbulent time in history, and in his own life as well. Stevenson touches on the death of a family member from SIDS and the repercussions with which Jack is faced. Jack is an insightful protagonist and readers will cheer him on as he tries to bring some sense of normalcy back into his life in a rather unpredictable world. The political turmoil that was the early 1960s is not at the center of this book, however, because Stevenson focuses on her characters, rather than the time period. Reviewer: Tanya Paglia
Kirkus Reviews
It's 1963, and 12-year-old Jack struggles to cope with his mom's depression after his baby sister's sudden death. Jack was interested in The Guinness Book of Records even before he found his baby sister Annie dead in her crib, but since then, he's been determined to break a record, any record, in an effort to distract his mother from her severe depression. She spends most days in bed even though Annie died over a year ago, and his dad tries to keep the family going. Jack first decides to rock a rocking chair for three days, then to eat a record number of sausages far too quickly, failing both times. However, he meets Kate, a new girl in his small Ontario town, and starts working on a new project: With help from Kate's music-teacher mom, he'll sing his mom's favorite Perry Como song. Stevenson keeps the tone light but the story serious as Jack copes with his own grief and his family's distress. The recent historical setting, which includes newly introduced color television and the Kennedy assassination, helps to grant some distance to readers from the heavy emotions surrounding the baby's death. Jack's growth as he makes a new friend and works on his performance caps this sensitive exploration with charm. Perceptive and quite lovely. (Historical fiction. 9-12)
School Library Journal
Gr 4–7—Jack desperately wants to break some sort of world record because he believes that by doing so he can restore his family to what it was before his sister died of SIDS. Stevenson vividly portrays how Annie's death affects the whole family. Jack's mom suffers from depression, barely getting out of bed each day. Jack and his father neglect all but the basic necessities, including the fallout shelter Jack's dad began before Annie died. It is when the 12-year-old finds Kate, a girl whose family has relocated from the United States to Canada, that he begins the healing process. Kate and her mother are like a balm to Jack and his mother, and the catalysts behind a positive turning point for the family. The author injects much-needed humor into the story through Jack's failed record-breaking attempts and Kate's inability to play the recorder or cook. Historical references, like the JFK assassination and the specter of the Cold War, ground the novel in the early 1960s. Jack's emotions, particularly the fear and guilt he feels, and his preoccupation with the family's situation, are realistic. This is a compelling novel, even with the weighty subject, and many of the characters are well rounded and believable. The author also brings hope to Jack's family and readers without giving the story a pat ending. A solid offering.—Hilary Writt, Sullivan University, Lexington, KY

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781554699599
Publisher:
Orca Book Publishers
Publication date:
03/01/2013
Pages:
152
Product dimensions:
4.90(w) x 7.30(h) x 0.40(d)
Lexile:
590L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Robin Stevenson is the author of multiple books for children and teens. She spends most of her time writing, hanging out with her homeschooled son, and teaching creative writing to adults, teens and kids. She lives in Victoria, British Columbia, with her family. For more information, visit www.robinstevenson.com. Robin loves to hear from readers—and she always writes back.

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