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Monday, October 17, 2011

NEVILLE, written by Norton Juster and illustrated by G Brian Karas. Scwartz & Wade, Random House. 2011. $19.99 ages 4 and up

"Nobody had asked him about moving. They'd just told him.
"You'll love it, " they'd said. That's what they always said when they knew he wouldn't love something."

Being a new kid in a strange neighborhood may be something that many have experienced. I certainly remember moving to Sixth Street when I was in grade one. It was Halloween and we didn't get to go out trick or treating...we had more important things to think about!  I was certainly apprehensive about going to school in the morning. I likely cried every day for the first two weeks...I was a homebody and never happier than when I was there. It is amazing the images that a great story can unearth! I have rarely thought about being the 'new kid' but NEVILLE definitely made me think about that particular day. I find I have some very strong memories of that day.

Two boys give greetings from the front cover of the book. They are together, seemingly shouting for someone to pay attention. If you open the book fully, you will see that the back cover shows the backs of those same two boys, yelling out toward a big green patch of land. The title page provides a series of four illustrations, showing a road, dust to show movement, two days and two nights, and finally a moving van taking the exit ramp to 'somewhere'. A car, topped with luggage, follows it.

It's been a long trip. Upon arrival, there is a row of carbon copy houses that fade into the distance, belongings piled on the sidewalk and a young boy is watching the van pull away. And there are no friends...the worst part of all.

His mother suggests a walk...he might meet someone. He is not convinced, but there is not much else to do. Off he shuffles. She has rules...don't got too far, come back before dark, watch for cars. When he gets to the end of the block, he makes opens his mouth and shouts for NEVILLE! Imagine his surprise when he hears:

'He probably can't hear you.
You have to shout louder,"
came a voice from close by.
A boy just about his size was
standing right next to him.
A little startled, he shouted again,
even louder."

Now, they are both shouting for NEVILLE...not in unison. A small girl offers assistance and soon they are on the right track. She is pleased. It isn't long until a veritable cacophony of shouts comes from the crowd that is gathering. Dogs help, too. Soon, someone asks about Neville. 'Is he new?' 'Are you a friend of his?' They want to know more. The search continues. Neville remains elusive. As darkness falls, a promise is made. They'll all be back to help tomorrow. Home he goes to Mom and bed.

Perfect story, stunning illustrations and a brilliant ending!

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