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The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee


The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee by Barry Jonsberg (Chronicle Books, $16.99, 248 pages
)

Perhaps you’ve heard the comment, “He’s a bit of an odd duck.” Well, Candice Phee, a twelve-year-old who lives in a suburb of Brisbane, Australia is surely an odd duck. The inability to lie, even a kindly white lie, is but one of her many quirky behavioral traits. Overwhelming shyness has led her to use written communication in uncomfortable situations such as prolonged discussions with adults other than her parents and with kids at school. She is a devout reader of the dictionary, which provides her with a remarkably broad and specific vocabulary.

Candice’s world is full of adults who are alienated (not aliens). Her mom is plagued by depression and her dad won’t have anything to do with his brother, Rich Uncle Brian, who is his former partner in a software company. Miss Bamford, Candice’s all-time favorite teacher has a lazy eye that sets her apart and draws reactions from her students.

The other kids in Miss Bamford’s sixth grade class, especially the ultra cool Jen Marshall, mock Candice. The arrival of a new and similarly odd student, Douglas Benson, creates an opportunity for Candice to experience friendship for the first time in her life. Their interactions are hilarious.

Miss Bamford has assigned Candice’s class the task of writing a narrative/autobiography using each letter of the alphabet as the theme of a paragraph. Thus, the primary structure of the book is Candice’s take on the assignment. Interspersed are the poignant and intelligent letters she has sent to her pen pal in New York City who doesn’t reply to Candice.

The Categorical Universe black and white

The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee is intended for readers ten years of age and up. Clearly, the audience for the book is a wide one. Fans of The Westing Game, young, old and any age in between, will thoroughly enjoy this heartwarming, sometimes gut-wrenching and ultimately satisfying tale. Author Barry Jonsberg has won numerous Australian writing awards. He is a teacher and resides in Darwin, Australia. This reviewer visited Darwin over 45 years ago, well before Mr. Jonsberg moved there from England. I hope he enjoys the barramundi fish that are plentiful in Darwin! Barramundi is my all-time favorite.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was received from the publisher. This book was released on September 9, 2014.

You can read a sample of this book for free on your Kindle device or app:

http://www.amazon.com/Categorical-Universe-Candice-Sneak-Preview-ebook/dp/B00MF2CLKI/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1414437440&sr=1-2&keywords=the+categorical+universe+of+candice+phee

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New Tricks

You’re in for a doggy treat (although not the Milk Bone type, of course).   Author David Rosenfelt is a master of timing, understatement, and spoofing.   His most recent novel, New Tricks, is an all around good book; a mystery complete with a Patterson, New Jersey based attorney who has a reputation for defending dogs (of the canine variety), a temperamental and outspoken judge named Hatchet, and a lady police chief from Wisconsin who just happens to be the attorney’s long-distance girlfriend.   The cast of characters is enhanced by a friend who communicates with the attorney by singing the lyrics of popular songs.   The center of attraction is Waggy, an eager and energetic Bernese puppy whose ownership is in dispute.

The mystery immediately grabs the reader’s attention as a mansion explodes, leaving nothing but massive collateral damage and a dead owner.   The plot twists, turns and then doubles back on itself.   There are plenty of red herrings, hidden motives, puns and double entendres that give an appreciative reader cause to laugh out loud.   The plot twists and turns are worthy of The Rockford Files and 77 Sunset Strip, and reminiscent of the style of author Ellen Raskin (The Westing Game).

Highly recommended.   A charming tale that’s also a tail wagger!

Grand Central Publishing, $24.99, 309 pages

Reprinted courtesy of Sacramento Book Review

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