Saturday, May 29, 2021

The Nose from Jupiter

The Nose from Jupiter
by Richard Scrimger
Recommended Ages: 11+

Alan Dingwall, 13, is an ordinary seventh grader in Cobourg, Ontario: not particularly good at math or sports, not very popular, cowed by the school bullies, and a little lonely, especially at home with his divorced mother who doesn't have much time for him and an even busier father who lives all the way across the continent. He doesn't feel loved. His unhappiness is almost a speaking character. Then a tiny alien from outer space flies up his nose and takes residence there, and a bunch of these things start to change.

At first Alan worries that Norbert's smart-aleck remarks will get him in trouble. Or maybe people like his parents and teachers will decide he's crazy. But as some of the kids at school – including a girl Alan has a crush on – assume Norbert's comments are a ventriloquism act and his mom thinks he has an imaginary friend, he starts to relax. Almost. There is just one tiny problem: Norbert humiliated the school bullies in an intramural soccer game, and they don't forgive or forget. You'll suspect that has something to do with the fact that Alan wakes up in the hospital with a pain in his head, doctors puzzled about a spaceship-shaped shadow in his MRI, and no memory of being pulled out of a swollen river by a girl.

Alan tells us the story of the days leading up to his accident, with a little help from Norbert, while trying to remember what happened. What they discover is strange, funny and touching. It's a well-written, intelligent story that doesn't pull punches, settle for cuteness or talk down to young readers. In fact, they may find its vocabulary and concepts challenging, and some of its pop culture references (like k.d. lang and land-line phones) might be dated enough, after 20-plus years, to raise questions for today's youngsters. Asking them, or doing a little research, hurts nobody, though. And anyway, Alan's wit, his heart, his growth as a character, the realism of his situation, and Norbert's smart mouth all make the effort seem more than worthwhile.

This is the first book of a series that continues in A Nose for Adventure, Noses Are Red and The Boy from Earth. Canadian author Richard Scrimger has also published several other novels for adults and children, including The Way to Schenectady, Of Mice and Nutcrackers, From Charlie's Point of View, Me & Death, Zomboy, Lucky Jonah and Downside Up. He also co-authored Viminy Crowe's Comic Book with Marthe Jocelyn.

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