Rex Zero, King of Nothing

Rex Zero, King of Nothing

by Tim Wynne-Jones

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In sixth grade now, the wildly imaginative Rex Zero and his friends hatch a plan to replace Miss Garr, the substitute teacher from hell, and Rex takes on the persona of none other than "Dr. Love." Of course, events spin hilariously out of control. Miss Garr's cruel behavior is a mystery to Rex. But then, Rex's world is full of mysteries! There's the beautiful woman

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In sixth grade now, the wildly imaginative Rex Zero and his friends hatch a plan to replace Miss Garr, the substitute teacher from hell, and Rex takes on the persona of none other than "Dr. Love." Of course, events spin hilariously out of control. Miss Garr's cruel behavior is a mystery to Rex. But then, Rex's world is full of mysteries! There's the beautiful woman in white. Why does she have a black eye? There's the little black book filled with names. Who could it belong to? And why has Rex's father hidden a letter that begins: "Mein Liebchen"? Could all these things have something to do with the mystery of love? Underneath all of this is the age-old question of how to stand up and be a man. For if, as Rex's dad says, "a man's got to do what a man's got to do," how does Rex know what to do and when to do it?

Delightfully eccentric characters, humorous scenes of well-intended plans gone awry, a finely crafted plot interwoven with serious themes about love and war—this new Rex Zero from Tim Wynne-Jones is a gem!

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal

Gr 5-8- That smart and funny sixth grader introduced in Rex Zero and the End of the World (Farrar, 2007) is back. The book is set in 1962 in Ottawa, where Rex lives with his quirky family and his scheming pals. Wynne-Jones perfectly and poignantly captures Rex's confusion with life and grown-ups, from his thinking that Armistice Day is "Our Mistress Day" to his struggle to understand his dad's zany humor. The boy wrestles with several mysteries. He can't understand why his teacher, Miss Garr, is so mean, and why his sad father keeps old photos and letters written in German. The biggest mystery presents itself, however, when Rex finds an address book that leads him to a beautiful woman whom he feels compelled to rescue from an abusive relationship. While laugh-out-loud funny in places (especially when Rex and his friends find a way to thwart the miserable Miss Garr), the book also deals with more difficult topics, especially with wartime experiences that weigh on Dad's heart. It will not matter that the 1960s references, especially to television shows, may not be familiar to young readers; Rex's first-person narration will ring true. He learns the ultimate coming-of-age lesson: life is not neat and tidy but rather messy and human. While it is not necessary to have read the first book to enjoy this one, children will no doubt want to read it after and will look forward to more adventures.-Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME

Kirkus Reviews
A carefree childhood in 1962 Ottawa has more depth than first appearances indicate. Rex Norton-Norton (known as Rex Zero to his friends) has plenty of worries. He's in major trouble for skipping out on Armistice Day ceremonies to play football with his friends. His teacher Miss Garr is totally nuts. His sister Annie Oakley is convinced that their dad fathered a half-German kid during the war. But all of that fades when Rex finds a missing address book which leads him to adventure in the form of a beautiful woman in grave peril. Multiple opportunities arise for inspiring, gallant stands from Rex and his friends. Rex's story is gentler than is currently fashionable, but these seemingly uncorrupted characters are well aware of darkness: divorce, domestic abuse, the deaths of soldiers. None of it touches their heroic childlike determination. An idealized portrait of feisty kids, but affecting for all that. (Fiction. 9-11)
The Horn Book Starred
Wynne-Jones brilliantly plays Rex's comfortable childhood world against the adult one Rex is just beginning to discern; the elegantly simple child-logic he applies to the latter yields both catastrophic and heroic results... Well worth the ride.
Booklist Starred
Set in Ottawa in 1962, the story offers well-crafted, eccentric characters, laugh-out-loud humor, and a generous dose of 1960s culture....Fans and preteens contemplating that long bridge to adulthood will be charmed.
The Toadstool Bookshop Sue Carita
There are some laugh out loud moments. Descriptions are often memorable or lyrical as when Mother says things that happened during the war are 'like stones on your father's heart.' Thoroughly enjoyable tale of Ottawa in the sixties and some neat kids.
Bulletin for the Center of Children's Books
Once again, Wynne-Jones handily balances the humorous quirkiness of his hero with truly troublesome undercurrents of adult concerns that disturb his peace.
Book Links
Rex's fans . . . will be charmed.

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Product Details

Square Fish
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

From Rex Zero, King of Nothing


Armistice Day and the sun is shining! It’s cold in my room at the top of the house but not cold enough to catch your death.

“I’m really worried about going to the service with Dad tomorrow,” I said to Mum the night before, when she came to tuck me in.

“It’s important for your father, Rex.”

“Then why is he so crabby?”

“He always gets that way around now.”

How can I explain to Dad that even though I’ve been practicing and practicing I’m not ready?

You see, I’m afraid I’ll faint.

I’m sure I’ll faint.

I climb out of bed and shiver until I’ve put on my robe and slippers. I look at myself in the mirror on the wall. Then I take a deep breath and hold it.

I watch the second hand on my bedside clock. After thirty seconds I’m dying, but I hold on. Forty seconds and I’m going to burst. Fifty-three seconds! But that’s it. The best I can do. I stagger back to bed.

How will I ever hold my breath for two whole minutes?

That’s what you have to do on Armistice Day if you go to the service up at the War Memorial. I saw it once on television. At exactly eleven o’clock on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, everybody at the service has to hold their breath for two minutes of silence. Even if you’re only eleven and your father suddenly decides you’ve got to be a man and you’re not ready.

I sit on my bed and try to think of an illness I can pretend to have that I haven’t pretended to have recently.

That’s when the caterwauling starts.

I tiptoe down the stairs to the second floor. It’s Dad. I tiptoe along the hall to the staircase that leads to the main floor. My three older sisters are eavesdropping there.

Annie Oakley turns and glares at me.

“Shhhhhh,” she whispers.

“Don’t shhhhhh so loudly,” says Letitia.

“God, you children are hopeless!” says Cassiopeia, the eldest.

We might end up having World War III right here on the stairs, but my father’s voice interrupts the whispering war.

“Two-thirty?” he shouts. “Two-bloody-thirty-o’-bloody-o’clock?”

“Darling,” says Mum.

“Don’t darling me,” says Dad. Then Rupert the Sausage starts to cry. He cries all the time. I lean way over the railing and I can just see him at the end of the hall in the kitchen in his high chair. My little sister, Flora Bella, is standing beside him. It looks as if she just poured orange juice on his head.

Dad marches out of the kitchen and down the hall. We skitter back up the stairs to the landing. He opens the door to his study, which is right at the bottom of the stairs. He doesn’t notice us. He’s dressed for the big event in a blazer with his war medals on it and a weird little soldier’s cap I’ve never seen before. He shouts back down the hallway.

“Two-thirty! Is nothing sacred?” Then the study door slams shut behind him.

It’s the day of the truce, but you wouldn’t know it at our house.

Dad won’t come out of his study and Mum is fuming, and it’s all because they changed the ceremony up at the War Memorial to the afternoon.

“It’s so people can go to church,” Mum explains to us as she swabs up orange juice and tries to stop the Sausage from crying. “It’s not usually on a Sunday.”

“Yes it is,” says Annie Oakley. “Every seven years it’s on a Sunday.”

“Well, I just wish Daddy would make us breakfast,” says Cassiopeia. “Sunday is his day to make breakfast—the only day he makes breakfast.”

“Oh, for God’s sake, young lady,” says Mum. “You’re twenty years old. Make it yourself.”

“No, it’s the principle of the thing,” says Cassiopeia. “He won’t let us off the hook when we’re in a bad mood.”

“We could make breakfast together,” says Letitia hopefully. “It would be fun.”

Meanwhile, Annie has gone and got her bow and arrows from the front closet. She stomps past us toward the kitchen door. “Good idea,” she says. “I’ll go kill us a cat.”

“Don’t you dare!” says Mum.

“Okay, a squirrel,” says Annie, and slams the back door behind her. It’s ten o’clock on a Sunday morning and there have already been two slammed doors. This is getting interesting.

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