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
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"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
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