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H.J. Hutchins
Illustrated by Ruth Ohi
Toronto, Annick Press, 1993.107pp, paper, $4.95
ISBN 1-55037-315-3. Distributed by Firefly Books. CIP

Grades 4 to 7/ Ages 9 to 12

Reviewed by Kathleen L. Kellett-Betsos.

Volume 21 Number 4
1993 September

The Best of Arlie Zack is a new novel from Hazel Hutchins, the prize-winning author of The Three and Many Wishes of Jason Reid and A Cat of Artimus Pride.

Arlie Zack has recently moved to a small town with his mother, his father having abandoned them years earlier. When his mother breaks her arm, it's up to Arlie to shovel the walk of the dreaded, 210-year-old Mrs. Spinx. The elderly woman repays Arlie with unusual gifts, such as a conch shell that echoes the sounds of his conscience.

Arlie's conscience is indeed bothering him, because he knows that a couple of his friends have been playing vengeful pranks on their teachers. But his main concern is his discovery that his father has opened a fishing store in the nearby town of Raven, B.C.

Curious, he takes the bus to Raven to be reunited with his father. On his return, he finds the courage to tell his mother about his friends' mischief and to share their punish­ment at school. He even has the opportunity to rescue Mrs. Spinx after she has a fall. And when she returns from the hospital, Arlie revives her will to live by giving her a magical gift of his own.

The book cover will be attractive to children: the print is easily readable and the illustrations well done. Although the character of Arlie Zack is quite engaging, Hutchins tries to treat too many issues and relationships at once. The newly founded relationship with the father is particularly anticlimatic, compared to the magical friendship with Mrs. Spinx. Still, children should enjoy the humour of Arlie Zack's adventures.

Kathleen L. Kellett-Betsos is an assistant professor at Ryerson Polytechnic University in Toronto, Ontario.
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