Wednesday, March 05, 2008



by John Van de Ruit.

Spud is the nickname granted to the 13-year-old John Milton, new arrival at boarding school, who has not yet reached puberty. While this is a source of some embarrassment, it also grants him the most beautiful voice in school, his ticket to stardom in the school play and among the girls joining his school to perform it. Besides this ongoing internal struggle, though, he has plenty of other things to deal with, for he is, as he frequently notes, surrounded by lunacy. His family is completely bonkers and embarrass him at school funtions frequently, though they seem favourites among the faculty. He finds some friends among the teachers, too, though they are rife with their own issues and quirks. And finally, he resides in a dorm that becomes known over the year as "The Crazy Eight."

The Crazy Eight are a pretty motley cast of characters, each with a nickname and his own oddity. There are, for example, Gecko, the sickly one; Fatty, the great eater; Mad Dog, the hunter; Rambo, the macho man; and RainMan, the demented one. There are ferocious rivalries with other boys that lead to occasionally vicious pranks, there are school traditions like birthday hazing to keep up with, and there are Rambo's own invented challenges, like the night swim which leads to disaster not once but twice. All this makes for one heck of a crazy school year, but one in which Spud learns a lot, grows a lot, and though his voice doesn't crack yet by the end, he is a whole lot closer to becoming the man he wants to be.

The book has heart and hilarity in equal measure, and had me often enough laughing out loud like a loon on the subway. If you like a good laugh and you don't mind the looks you get from the other transit riders when you crack up, I'd recommend this one, for certain.

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Oooh, I really need to read something that will make me laugh, I'll have to pick it up.
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