From Publishers Weekly
Seidler (Mean Margaret) injects an action story into this novel of sibling rivalry, with mixed results. Outshone by his younger (and taller) brother at everything from grades to sports to fence-building, seventh-grader Tim Tuttle takes frequent shelter with his beloved Great-aunt Winifred, an artist who's a bit eccentric. She plies Tim with treats, counsels him not to compare himself to others and gives him painting lessons, unlocking an unrecognized talent in the boy. Their relationship supplies the book with its greatest asset and their exchanges make Tim more credible and fully realized than sibling John Henry, a sixth grader. Tim takes her death hard, but feels inspired to paint a portrait of his parents and one of his brother for their Christmas gifts. John Henry, characterized as a two-dimensional villain, ruins the portrait of his parents under the tree by applying warts to his father's nose and adding a mustache on his mother's upper lip. Tim, whom his parents blame for the damage, runs away into the frigid Vermont countryside. Readers may have trouble believing John Henry's sudden change of heart when he sets out to find Tim ("Why had he done such a rotten thing to his brother his one and only brother?"). The rescue is told in flashback, so both the events and the significance of the clue that leads the police to the boys' whereabouts lose their impact. Seidler's crisp, descriptive prose (Great-aunt Winifred's eyes "were the same faded blue as the sky over Mt. Mansfield") and snappy dialogue help keep the story from bogging down. Ages 8-12.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Grade 5-8-Tim's younger brother, John Henry, is smart, athletic, and handsome, while Tim is pudgy, a poor student, and an even worse athlete. Only with his eccentric Great-aunt Winifred does Tim feel good about himself as the two spend their days painting. When she dies, the boy no longer has a place of refuge, and even though his parents are proud of his artistic talent, he still feels lost and alone. He decides to paint everyone a picture for Christmas, but John Henry is jealous of the attention his brother is receiving and sabotages his portrait of their parents. They are angry about what they see and blame Tim, who runs away in the middle of a blizzard to the only place where he has truly felt safe and appreciated, Aunt Winifred's empty house. Sibling rivalry and its repercussions make this book one that middle-school readers will identify with as the two boys finally discover how much they really care about one another. The characters' actions are typical of adolescent behavior and are therefore both maddening and appealing. The plot moves at a good pace as readers feel Tim's anguish and John Henry's gloating. This is a solid read that blends family dynamics and intense action in its exciting, satisfying climax.Janet Hilbun, formerly at Sam Houston Middle School, Garland, TX
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.