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Rex Zero and the End of the World Hardcover – February 20, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 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, CT
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

"Rex Zero and I have a lot in common," Wynne-Jones says in an afterword to this first-person, present-tense narrative that depicts, in part, what it was like growing up in a big family that moved to Ottawa in the early 1960s. The shadow of the cold war is ever present. Some neighbors and government agencies build bomb shelters, and Rex's angry sister is obsessed with the nuclear threat ("Reds and Yanks have to be stopped"). But for Rex, the big problem is making new friends as he starts sixth grade in a new place. There's a bit too much period trivia about such things as TV and movie characters, but the sense of looming doomsday will hold readers, as will the timeless drama of moving and trying to fit in. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 680L (What's this?)
  • Series: Rex Zero
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR); 1st edition (February 20, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374334676
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374334673
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,145,018 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on November 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
You ever read an author, love their work, and then wake up at 2 a.m. with the sneaky suspicion that maybe all their books are good and that you've simply been missing out all these years? That's me, that is. I'm that. I've just read me a Tim Wynne-Jones book, thought it was top notch work, and then I started telling this to people. "Oh," they would say with sly little smiles plastered all over their faces. "And have you ever read anything by Tim before?" "Well, no," I'd confess. My compatriots would then nod sagely and the conversation would turn elsewhere, leaving me with the vague feeling that maybe I couldn't judge "Red Zero and the End of the World" unless I'd somehow read its author's entire children's literary oeuvre. Then I'd remember that a good reviewer reviews the book in front of them and not how that book stands up in the face of the writer's previous titles. So if you're already a Tim Wynne-Jones fan, I have good and bad news for you. The good is that I loved this book and I think it's great. The bad is that I don't know if it's any greater than anything else he's ever done. I guess you'll just have to pick yourself up a copy of this puppy and determine the rest for yourself.

In 1962 the end of the world is near. At least that's what the crazy guy with the sign walking around the streets of Ottawa would have you believe. For Rex Norton-Norton (Rex Zero, for short), the world might well be ending for all he knows. He's just moved to Ottawa from Vancouver (and, before that, from Britain) and since it's the summer you would think that there would be some kids about to play with. There are kids, sure, but whenever Rex sees them they're usually moving as fast as they can away from him. It's very mysterious.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Helen Frost on April 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I love to be carried into a story on a magic carpet of laughter, and that's what Tim Wynne-Jones does for us here. Rex Zero wins my heart immediately by assigning random numbers to his paint-by-number paint pots and then watching with interest to see how the pictures turn out. So believable and original. The Cold War history that permeates the book is of special interest because the point of view is Canadian--as an American reader, I kept being startled to see how that made the terrain just a little unfamiliar, even when it seemed, at first, to be something I knew. Don't miss this book--you'll love the family, from brave big sister, Annie Oakley, to Flora Bella and the Sausage--but most especially, the smart, heroic Rex Zero himself.
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Format: Hardcover
It's the summer of 1962, and a panther has escaped from the Granby Zoo--wherever that is.
At first Rex Zero, newly moved from Vancouver to Ottawa, doesn't understand why his new town has no kids his own age. Well, he sees a few, but never for long: they always appear to be fleeing in terror. His sister Annie Oakley says they're running away from mutants caused by atomic radiation. An old man at the park claims the world is ending and even knows the date: October 23.
Having four sisters and a brother called "the Sausage" isn't the same as having friends. Rex spends the summer days riding his trusty bike Diablo or working on his paint-by-number kits. Carefully he relabels each little pot of paint. "The colors of his face are supposed to be 37 and 39, which means that in my version they are 6 and 4: a kind of sickly yellow and an apple green. He doesn't look as if he likes sailing all that much. Or maybe he's thinking about the sandwiches they packed for their picnic." Rex's unique artwork becomes a metaphor for his new life: a world turned inside out.
Before long Rex meets other sixth graders who aren't running, and learns that they believe an escaped panther is lurking in the park. An aging World War I veteran suffering the aftereffects of mustard gas and a sympathetic beatnik poet contribute clues that help Rex unravel a series of unsettling events. When Rex recruits his new classmates in a plot to trap the panther, he gets more than he bargained for.
Plentiful period references, from Sea Hunt to Sputnik, are arguably more appealing to boomers than to preteens; how many ten-year-olds will appreciate a quip about Khrushchev's shoe? The atmosphere is authentic, however, giving a strong sense of what it was like to grow up during the duck-and-cover Cold War.
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Format: Hardcover
This autobiographical slice-of-life story takes place in Ottawa, Canada. Rex Norton-Norton is the new boy in town, facing the usual obstacles of trying to find buddies his age, and coming to terms with nuances in culture--French is spoken here as well as English, and Rex's British Colombian accent could use some tweaking. The author does a fine job of depicting the uncertainties between kids when they're new to each other and vying for acceptance. Rex's new friends all have nicknames, and they proclaim 'Norton-minus-Norton-equals-zero', hence Rex gets his nickname. All is not well in 1962--a strange old man in the park carries a placard claiming the world will end on October 23; a fearsome animal lurks in the park which the friends believe to be a panther escaped from a zoo; Rex's dog goes missing (did the panther eat it?); America and Russia are at the height of the Cold War; bomb shelters are being built and espionage abounds--even nuns are suspected of being Communists. This is an ideal book for kids to become immersed in the feeling of what life was like for their parents who grew up with the subterfuge of fear in this era. However, there's too much trivia included which may drop the story like a dud for today's kids: Rex's mom listens to Harry Belafonte on her records, Rex's hobby is paint-by-number, TV shows and actors names are unfamiliar, and the basement is full of old Punch magazines. Otherwise it's worthwhile for the portrayal of 'typical family life' against which readers can judge their own 'normal' families.
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