Wynne-Jones, Tim. Lord of the Fries. Dorling Kindersley, 1999. ISBN 0-7894-2623-4. $17.95. 214 pp. A 7-12 FI Reviewed by Robert L. Maxwell In these new stories set in rural and small-town eastern Canada, young adult writer Wynne-Jones has given us an evocative glimpse into a world that will seem vaguely familiar and yet vaguely foreign to many American readers, and not only because of the international border; it may seem vaguely foreign to urban Canadian readers as well. The stories are a pleasurable read, but are also thought provoking, some even troubling. Many are set in the dead of the Canadian winter, where small-town and farm life can seem both enchanting and vulnerable, and the weather sits as a constant backdrop to stories with serious themes as diverse as privacy and homelessness, sexual harassment, and paralyzing shyness, making friends out of rivals, and nationalist bigotry. Serious themes; but the stories are laced with wit and good humor and one does not feel any satire or cynicism in them. The titles of the stories themselves lighten what might be unbearable gloom. Ick, for example, takes its name from the disease that goldfish contract after a while in many kids’ fish bowls--the fish get white blotches and float to the top of the water. But it also describes what is going on in the story, which is how a class of young teenagers, in a very clever way, deal with and counteract unwanted flirtation by their teacher toward one of the girls in class. In the title story, Lord of the Fries, two girls attempt to find out the imagined secret past of a short-order cook who wants nothing more than to be left alone; and the girls learn to respect his privacy. Two of the stories have overtly Canadian themes: in The Anne Rehearsals a girl must learn to deal with her jealousy when her best friend is chosen to portray her hero, Anne of Green Gables, in the school play. In the final story, The Chinese Babies, contemporary Canadian nationalist issues surface when an Anglophone family in an isolated farmhouse on the border of Ontario and Quebec must rescue three Francophone couples and their three newly-adopted mainland Chinese babies from a winter storm, resolving both tensions within the family and between the two cultures. Three of the stories deal with fears many teenagers have experienced: what if a parent disappears (The Bermuda Triangle)? What if I didn’t have any place to live (The Fallen Angel)? How do I make friends in a new town? Can I let someone into my own private world (The Pinhole Camera)? These stories are engaging and will appeal to teenagers. They may even act as a point of dialogue between these teenagers and their parents.
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