From Publishers Weekly
In this moving novel, Shreve (Blister) again demonstrates her insight into kids outside the mainstream of school life. Eleven-year-old Ben has hated school since first grade, when he responded to a classmate s taunts about his lisp by flushing her teddy bear down the toilet. The well-meaning but dense principal uses the occasion to test Ben for learning disabilities (he turns out to have dyslexia and, later, ADD), but in the process makes Ben feel like a problem child. As Ben, the narrator, candidly puts it, Since the teddy bear, everyone expected trouble from me. So that s what they got. Now in fifth grade, Ben explains that despite his efforts, "My bad reputation has followed me like a tail getting longer every year." Then a new boy named Trout arrives at school, wearing what he claims is a tattooed question mark on his chin (If I didn t have a question mark on my chin, I d be invisible, he tells Ben). Trout, who also has learning disabilities, attaches himself to Ben s side like Velcro and the two boys live up to the school's expectations by getting into trouble, big-time. The author s evenhandedness gives the story its punch: the adults think they are doing all the right things, but fail to see how their attitudes compound the boys problems. Fusing humor and pathos, Shreve introduces characters of uncommon dimension and complexity and leaves readers with subtle issues to ponder. Ages 9-12.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Grade 5-7-A sixth grader looks back to first grade, when he became known as "Ben Carter in Trouble." He tried with disastrous results to flush a classmate's purple teddy bear down the toilet after being teased about his lisp. His teacher was sure that his anger and frustration were directly related to his problems learning to read. Thus began Ben's difficult school career. His first-person narrative zeroes in on fifth grade, when a boy named Trout becomes his first-ever best friend and coconspirator, turning Stockton Elementary on its ear. Self-deprecating humor and excruciating honesty sustain the authenticity of the voice used. Both boys are diagnosed with ADD, but come from very different homes. Ben lives with both parents while Trout has only his dad, who travels a lot. Ben's family remains supportive throughout while Trout's is largely unseen. His dad's response to his often-troubling behavior is to move and change schools. This is a poignant, realistic portrait of the effects of labeling, "bad influences," and what it's like to be different. Characters are plausible as are the situations in which they are placed. While readers are left wondering about Trout's future as he and his dad make yet another move, they will be hopeful that Ben has found the inner strength he needs to succeed. A fast-paced, touching story told in the convincing and perceptive voice of the young protagonist.Maria B. Salvadore, District of Columbia Public Library
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.