Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The 10 PM Question by Kate De Goldi

Bolinda audio edition 2009 with
illustration by Sarah Maxey
The 10 PM Question by New Zealand author Kate De Goldi is one of my all-time favourite books. It's wise and funny and heartbreaking. I've read it twice so far, plus listened to the audiobook narrated by Stig Wemyss [Bolinda: 8 hr 27 min].

12-year-old Frankie Parsons worries obsessively. Earthquakes, dead batteries in the smoke detector, flu epidemics, intestinal parasites in the cat, hepatitis, a hole in his heart, food poisoning... everything. 

U.S. pbk edition 2012
On a hot day, Frankie's friend Gigs suggests that they cool off at the swimming pool. "But [the pool] would be unbearably crowded today, Frankie thought. And last Saturday when they'd been there, he'd had his annual unsavory collision with a Band-Aid. There was nothing more revolting in Frankie's view than freestyling your way, innocent and blissful, into the path of a used Band-Aid. In Frankie's private hierarchy of squeamish experiences, the casual caress of a stained Band-Aid was right up there with accidentally catching sight of writhing maggots in a forgotten rubbish bag. He'd had to get out of the pool immediately last Saturday and lie on his towel in the sun to recover."

Frankie also shoulders the burden of keeping his dysfunctional family's household running smoothly. The family cat, the Fat Controller, is as intractable as the rest.

"The day began in the worst possible way. Twice. First, it began at 3:49 a.m. when the Fat Controller jumped through Frankie's bedroom window with a rat and proceeded to do a presentation juggle on the floor in front of his bed. [...] But removing the Fat Controller wasn't easy, since she became ferocious and most uncooperative if her hunting celebrations were interrupted. Since Frankie couldn't bring himself to pick up the rat (in case it was still alive) and since the Fat Controller couldn't be persuaded to leave the rat, he had to pick up the Fat Controller -- no mean feat, considering her body mass -- with the rat in her mouth, and cart them both down the hall, out through the kitchen, and into the backyard, all as quietly as possible and holding the growling cat at rigid arms' length in case any part of the rat brushed his skin and he somehow contracted bubonic plague."

De Goldi has packed this novel with wonderful characters who live on past the pages. The 10 PM Question is one of those rare gems with strong cross-generational appeal. At the Edmonton Public Library, it's shelved in the children's department, but it could just as comfortably sit in the teen section or with the adult fiction. Grade 6 - adult.

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