From the Publisher
“Brilliant in its near stream-of-consciousness depiction of the world as Rex sees it . . . The meticulous plotting sets the enormity of world destruction against the equally cataclysmic concerns of childhood. It's a historic narrative that resonates eerily and effectively today.” Starred, The Horn Book
“Wynne-Jones writes with a light, often humorous touch and maintains a perspective true to an 11-year-old's perspective. This winning hero paints a universe both hopeful and realistic, one that readers may well want to visit.” Starred, Publishers Weekly
“Delightfully nerve-wracking, eccentric and optimistic.” Kirkus Reviews
“The sense of looming doomsday will hold readers, as will the timeless drama of moving and trying to fit in.” Booklist
“A fast-moving, quirky romp through apocalyptic anxiety.” The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
“Eccentric and charming.” VOYA
“An unusual and appealing title.” School Library Journal, May 2007
Wynne-Jones (A Thief in the House of Memory) draws on his own childhood to describe events leading up to the Cold War. In the summer of 1962, narrator Rex Harrison and his family move to Ottawa from Vancouver. The tension between the U.S. and Russia permeates everything this summer. A homeless man announces the end of the world on a placard, while others build bomb shelters. It seems only Rex's parents aren't taking the threats seriously. One evening, while walking his dog in the park, Rex's dog pulls him toward something hiding in the bushes. A brief glance is enough to convince him that it's dangerous ("It tilts back its head and roars"). His older sister thinks it's a mutant: the fallout from the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. However, Rex's new friends believe it's a panther that escaped from a zoo a few years ago. Throughout the summer, the kids work on a plan to capture the beast. The author subtly draws a parallel between the intangible Cold War fear and fear of the elusive creature. Despite the weighty themes, Wynne-Jones writes with a light, often humorous touch and maintains a perspective true to an 11-year-old's perspective. As Rex muses on the idea of the world ending, he understands that "one world seems to come crashing to a halt and you invent another." This winning hero paints a universe both hopeful and realistic, one that readers may well want to visit. Ages 8-12. (Mar.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
VOYA - Angela Semifero
Eleven-year-old Rex Zero has just moved to Ottawa, Ontario, with his family during the summer of 1962. The Cold War is at its height, and bomb shelters, looking for spies, and Harry Belafonte are all the rage. Rex is worried that his new town is like the Twilight Zone-all the young people seem to have disappeared. He spends much of his time riding his bicycle, "Diablo," and trying to avoid the placard man in the park who claims that the world will end the next October. Then he meets Buster, James, and Kathy. The group becomes obsessed with tracking down the escaped panther from the Toronto zoo, an animal that seems to have made its way to the woods near their neighborhood. The main issue with this title is that the audience is somewhat difficult to determine. It requires a certain understanding of genre conventions, ironic humor, and historical events, but it is written at a low reading level, somewhat in the same way as Whales on Stilts by M. T. Anderson (Harcourt, 2005). The cast of characters is eccentric and charming, but few have any concrete development. The story is told in a fairly simple style, but it seems to drag at certain points. Overall it is an amusing read and could certainly spark some discussion of another era, but it might be a tough sell to middle school students.
Children's Literature - Kathleen Karr
Nearly eleven-year-old Rex Norton-Nortona last name which cancels out to "Zero"is Tim Wynne-Jones's alter ego in the author's fictional memoir of growing up in Ottawa during the Cold War. It is the summer of 1962, bomb shelters are being dug in backyards instead of swimming pools, and newcomer Rex makes friends with a gang of kids sorely oppressed by thoughts of nuclear warfare. For lack of any say in adult politics, they focus their angst on an escaped panther named Tronido. Their attempts to capture the wild animal are set against an otherwise idyllic childhood summer: bikes and soda pop, tree forts and parks safe enough to encompass beatniks, old soldiers and children at liberty to amuse themselves all day. Wynne-Jones's story is sweetly told, never succumbing to mere nostalgia. Though Canadian, its concerns are universal. Nineteen-sixty-two was the summer building up to the Cuban Missile Crisis, and it is good for American kids to know that the Canadian government was building underground bunkers, too.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8 - It is 1962, and Rex Norton-Norton (aka Rex Zero) has been transplanted again, this time to Ottawa, along with his quirky family. With five siblings in his family, including boy-crazy Cassiopeia and Annie Oakley (who is convinced that the local nuns are Communist spies), there's plenty of activity, but no real friends for Rex and his trusty bicycle, Diablo. Lonely, he joins Kathy and her gang of kids who are convinced that an escaped panther, Tronido, is loose. Looming over the panther hunting is the backdrop of the Cold War, producing bomb shelters, rumors, and, for Rex, a few mysteries to solve. Fiction set in Canada during this period is relatively rare, making this an unusual and appealing title. Unfortunately, this book lacks an explanation of what is taking place, and its target audience won't be familiar with the historical underpinnings. Also, some of the references to TV shows and other 1960s culture will be equally baffling for kids. That said, the memorable characters and the animal mystery will keep the pages turning. Despite some confusion, readers will find something here to enjoy.-Caitlin Augusta, The Darien Library, CTCopyright 2007 Reed Business Information