Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Let's Read About Something That Could Really Happen

I've realized over the past year that I seem to be reading more YA than children's fiction. I think this is because the library I frequent buys a lot of children's series that are often about princesses or are some kind of retold fairy tale or are about girl cliques or are of the generic fantasy variety rather than the witty or edgie fantasy I prefer.

Right now I'm interested in more realistic fiction for the younger reader, which is why I picked up Rex Zero The Great Pretender by Tim Wynne-Jones. (At the same library, as a matter of fact. Maybe the children's librarian is interested in a bit of realism right now, too.) Rex Zero The Great Pretender is most definitely a story about a realistic kid with a realistic life, at least, if you were living in Ottawa in the 1960s.

The Rex Zero books are also a series, the first of which, Rex Zero and the End of the World, I liked a great deal. I wasn't as taken with The Great Pretender, but that doesn't mean kids won't be.

The Great Pretender is a case study in the problems children's books face because they must get past adult readers like myself before they reach their ultimate audience, kids. Adult readers will have read plenty of books about boys with problems like the ones Rex faces in this volume--he's being forced to move with his family, once again, he's being tormented by a bully, and his mom's acting oddly. It sounds very familiar to me, but then I've been reading for a long, long time. Children in the 9-years-old and up age range this book is marketed to haven't been reading anywhere near as long, and they are closer to dealing with the kind of life that Rex is living.

There are plenty of child readers out there who prefer reality in their reading and the Rex Zero books are a good option for them. I'd start them out with The End of the World first, though. The Great Pretender will be better appreciated by readers who are fans of the whole series.

Plot Project: The plot for Rex Zero The Great Pretender definitely could be of the give-a-character-something-he-wants-(friends and stability) and-then-put-up-some-obstacles-to-him-getting-it form.

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