Can Con: Rex Zero, King of Nothing

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Believe it or not, there is a lot more to Canadian children’s lit than Tim Wynne-Jones, but right now, he’s holding up my whole “Can-Con” category all by himself.  I suppose if there was ever an author to do it, it’s Mr. Wynne-Jones.

Rex is back!  He’s still settling into his new life in Ottawa.  He’s still crafting hare-brained schemes with his pals.  He still has a wacky family.  This time around, Rex faces more mysteries, secrets and challenges at home and around town.  Why is his father growing more distant and sad, and what’s the story behind the stash of photographs and letters written in German?  How will his class get through the school year when their teacher, Miss Garr, is about as mean as they come?  Will Rex be able to help a beautiful stranger find a way to escape her troubled marriage? 

The second book has the same charm as the first, with more darker elements woven throughout.  I like how Tim Wynne-Jones’s characters are not completely one-sided.  Even Miss Garr, hardly a likeable person, is rendered more sympathetic by the end of the story – but not in a way that seems “happy-ending” ish.  Wynne-Jones explores heroism and the challenges of everyday life in a way that kids and grown ups will relate to. 

A few teensy gripes – I wish there had been more crazy Annie Oakley in this one.  She’s there, complete with bow and arrows and cowboy pyjamas, but she’s not as present as in book one, and she is just so darn fantastic! I love how angry/dramatic she is all the time.  (Mr. Wynne-Jones, if you are reading this, will you please write us a story all about Annie and we will forgive you?)  I wish there had been a tad more of the humour offered up in the first book, although the chapter where Mr. Odsburg comes over for dinner pretty much makes up for this. Otherwise… perfection.

If you haven’t yet read Rex Zero and the End of the World it is your own fault. Read it, then read this. Right away.

Rex Zero King of Nothing by Tim Wynne-Jones is published by Groundwood, House of Anansi Press.

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