When a new troublemaker, Trout, arrives at school, Ben is soon diagnosed with ADD-just like Trout.
Ever since first grade, Ben's been in trouble, even though he's really not a bad kid. He just can't seem to stop doing things that get him sent to the principal's office. His parents and wise older sister, Meg, swear he'll be fine in his own time, but when a new kid shows up in Ben's fifth-grade class, he's not so sure. Trout sticks to him like glue, and it's clear from the start that Trout is a much bigger troublemaker than Ben ever was. So when Ben gets diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), just like Trout, and then has to take Ritalin, just like Trout, he's not sure what to make of his friendship-especially when he starts to get a bad reputation. Is Trout's badness rubbing off on him? Can Ben make people understand it's the ADD, not Trout, causing the problems before it's too late?
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.
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July 11, 2004
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