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Monday, April 9, 2018

Clutch, written by Heather Camlot. Red Deer Press, Fitzhenry and Whiteside. 2017. $12.95 ages 10 and up

"I look at myself in the mirror. It gives me a knot in my stomach. Nah, more like a punch in the gut. I hate seeing my reflection. Pa's reflection. Dirty, brown hair. Long, narrow face. Hazel eyes. Thin build. No matter what I do or how hard I try, I always look back at his hair, his eyes, his build. Him. "I'm going to do what you couldn't!" I hiss at the man staring back."

Life has never been easy for the Grosser family, living in poverty in a Jewish neighborhood on the wrong side of Montreal's Park Avenue. Life following WWII brings its own set of problems, and then Joey's father dies suddenly. Joey, not yet 13, becomes the man of the house and takes responsibility for caring for his mother and his younger brother, David.

Joey's actions are controlled by his own personal need to make a better life for the family than his father did. He helps in the struggling family store, keeps a careful watch on the health of his ailing mother, and for the safety of his baseball-obsessed little brother. He misses his dad terribly, but is angry that he has left them with so little. The situation is often too much. Because of that, Joey sometimes makes decisions that are not in his or his family's best interests.

Joey wants to make money more than anything; it will offer the only way out the neighborhood. While he is resourceful to a fault, he is also conscientious, loyal and honorable. Tension builds throughout the story when his best friend's father tries to get Joey involved in his nefarious business dealings. Ben warns Joey, and wants him to promise to stay away from his father. Joey's age and innocence prevent him from understanding the danger inherent in what Mr. Wolfe is expecting him to do.

Short chapters that keep the intriguing plot moving quickly forward, a feeling of ever-growing tension, terrific secondary characters worthy of our admiration and having their own stories to tell, together teach a memorable history lesson for readers. Joey's first person narration is poignant, brave, and desperate. You will not forget him. I hope to meet him again one day.

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