Word Nerd, Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen and Dear George Clooney by Susin Nielsen

This is a delightful trio about which I cannot say enough good things. In fact I will let the narrator of Word Nerd start this off:

Word Nerd“I knew that feeling. It had been eight long years, but I still knew. I peeled back the bread on top of my sandwich and, sure enough, there it was.
A peanut. Well, to be accurate: half a peanut. The other half was in my digestive tract, and I was going into anaphylactic shock. All the mucous membranes in my throat were swelling up and I could hardly breathe. I reached for my Epipen then I remembered it wasn’t with me. It was in a fanny pack in my locker, where I hid it most mornings, even though my mom would kill me if she knew. When I wore the fanny pack, the Three Stooges called me a fag because it was hot pink – a free sample my mom got at a shopping mall in Kelowna, where we’d lived until two months ago.”

Every chapter begins with letters like this in Chapter 1:

LGRYALE and below this a list of words that can be made from the letters (early, ale, all, gall, gel,real,gear,largely, lag, gale) and below the list in capitals again : ALLERGY. How many did you get?

Ambrose and his mom moved to Vancouver two months ago and Ambrose goes to Cypress Elementary and is in seventh grade. He reads! He read The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke! How amazing is that!? Ambrose is a wonderful narrator and his version of his life is entertaining and, I believe, likely quite accurate. His dad died of an “aneurism (seminar, surname, armies, marines, manure, remains)in his brain, a little blood vessel that had been slowly swelling like a balloon. That day it just burst.”

You’ve got to meet Ambrose, his mom, the Economopouloses (the landlady and landlord) and their son Cosmo and all Ambrose’s Scrabble buddies! You will love them!

Having met Ambrose, you will want to meet Henry K. Larsen too. It says right on the title page Reluctant Journalthat Henry “is only writing this (journal) because his therapist said he had to, which stinks.”

Henry got sent to the psychologist because of Robot-Voice. When he had problems with his Mom at Christmas, his “furies came back” and he started to speak “in Robot 24/7” and continued to do so “through the move to Vancouver”. “The thing about speaking  Robot is, it strips the emotion out of everything. “It. Is All. Monotone.”” “It helps me. But by the eighth day of Robot-Henry, it was freaking everyone else out, so Dad made my first appointment. And he made me keep it, even after I’d gone back to being plain old Henry.”

Cecil, the therapist, gave Henry the notebook and when he got home Henry threw it in the garbage. He got it out later, “but only because he was bored.”

On his first day at a new school, Trafalgar Secondary,in January, Henry meets Farley Wong: “He’s the nerdiest -looking kid I have ever seen…looks like that nerd action figure you can buy in novelty stores…being seen with Farley could be like committing social hari-kari.”

Farley takes Henry to the Reach for the Top team meeting. Henry says its the kind of team that “attracts nerds the way dog poop attracts flies.” There he meets a “boy named Ambrose” who “wore a ratty-looking multicolored toque, with a pom-pom on top. Indoors. He also wore neon-green socks.” So Henry Larsen meets Ambrose from Word Nerd.

Now you have to meet Karen Vargas and Mr. AtaPattu from apartment 213 and you need to find out about Henry’s brother Jesse and Scott Martin.

Lastly, you need to meet Violet and her sister Rosie. Violet has twin step-sisters in Los Angeles and their names are Lola and Lucy. Her stepmother is Jennica. Violet says everything about the Los Angeles Christmas was phony including Jennica’s boobs. The gifts were not phoney Dear George Clooneyand included an iPod Touch and two new pairs of Converse high tops. Her dad had bought a new house in Los Angeles and as Violet says “It was nothing like our house in Vancouver.” There was a backyard bigger than the front and it had a swing set, a playground-sized sandbox and a kidney-shaped pool surrounded by a fence. Violet and Rosie’s house in Vancouver had “a rusted trampoline with a broken leg and mud.” They played with the twins in the sandbox and Violet thinks “I would have loved them with all my heart if I hadn’t hated them so much.” After dinner Violet’s dad asked her to go out and put the lid on the sandbox because both of the neighbours have cats. Violet said she would but she didn’t. In the morning, the twins went out to play in the sandbox. Dad and Jennica stayed inside drinking lattes. Violet and Rosie followed the twins outside. Lola pointed out a big cat turd in the sandbox and and asked “What dat?” Violet said “It’s chocolate…Santa must have left it. Look, one for each of you.”

“We were back in Vancouver in time for dinner. Fake Christmas had lasted just over twenty-four hours.” You can check into how things go for Violet when she gets home.

One thing leads to another and Violet thinks her mom should ask her dad for more money because he has way more than he had when he split from her mom. When her mom explains that she will not take any more money from their dad Violet gets the idea that she needs to find a better class of man for her mom. She decides George Clooney might be  right because her mom had met him years ago on a set when she had been called in to do hair when another stylist was sick. So she writes George a letter.

Oh, by the way, Violet has a whole shelf full of books and she often rearranges them alphabetically by title, then alphabetically by author (Louisa May Alcott to Paul Zindel)!

Also, by the way, Cosmo from Word Nerd and Amanda, his girlfriend,  appear in this book. Oh, and Violet has a crush on a fellow named Jean-Paul Bouchard from Winnipeg who is “seriously cute”.

You will love these whether you are in seventh grade or whether you finished university a long, long time ago when the earth was cooling. Happy Reading.