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Books by m j . hollingshead
Barry Boyhound
By m j . hollingshead
Last edited: Saturday, March 08, 2014
Posted: Thursday, November 15, 2007

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Spearman’s cleverness with words and his expressive narrative pull the reader right into the narrative.

Child Friendly Read … Recommended … 4 stars

The Review

The foreword tells the reader: ‘Don’t feel like you have to read this whole story all at once.’ The list of characters includes: Barry, Fleas One and Two, The Brothers, Exploding Raccoon, Janey, Mrs. Barry’s Mom, Worm, I’m With Stupid, Vladimir Guerrero, Squashed Frog, Monica, 19 other Squirrels, Cat, Pierre, Partial Pierre, Driver of Car, Nurse. Most of the characters are mammals, one is an Annelid, one is a former amphibian, two insects, a Marionette and a partial Marionette.

The story is more or less chronological, completed with digressions and aside;, strong readers and upper middle grade readers will finish in one sitting. Younger readers will take a little longer to finish perusing the tale.

And the narration begins with the reader being cautioned to keep quiet ... in a moment Barry will awaken. And he will awaken as a dog. Barry has never been a dog before. Up on Barry’s head two tiny fleas are deep in conversation. Note: whenever the fleas are chatting the type becomes very tiny.

I like the technique, however those of us who wear glasses, including many of my students, may find the tiny print too difficult to pursue, and miss part of the tale. I soldiered on, magnifying glass in hand when necessary, children often do not have the patience.

Barry was only twenty per cent awake when he reached up to scratch an itchy spot behind his left ear - with his toe. He was fifty percent awake when he said Yawn, sortof. By the time he was two thirds awake he noticed he was walking to the bathroom on all fours... like a dog.
Barry Boyhound continues with tidbits of conversation from the fleas, pages of fun facts about fleas or making up poems, a Compleat Pirate rule book explanation, really good pirate maps drawn by The Brothers, the diagram of a typical boy’s brain, a print out of flea conversation when fleas are angry with one another, details of a fun game of push the frog, and an exploding raccoon all appear during the narrative.

Barry finally winds up in the hospital, he was hit by a car. And the account ends with a peek into the future. Barry was pretty much okay after they unraveled his bandages. He did not eat another papaya or peanut butter sandwich.

The Brothers remained best friends, nothing more is learned about the exploding raccoon, Janey continued to be a normal person, Fleas One and Two joined the flea circus and were very successful, the Cat forgave Barry for chasing her, the Squashed Frog never recovered, the driver of the car stopped speeding and the hospital nurse was fine.

Writer Spearman has produced a colorful tale sure to please the target audience of middle grades readers. It has just enough curious, peculiar and outre to captivate youngsters in the 9 - 13 year range.

Spearman’s cleverness with words and his expressive narrative pull the reader right into the narrative. Language used is within the vocabulary understanding of most readers in the target group, reader interest is held fast as the story unfolds. The asides in the form of flea conversations and notes about this and that, as well as odd to bizarre happenings are kid friendly elements and add much to the reading of the account.

This is not a work targeted toward the adult population, but then it was not meant to be. Barry Boyhound is presented in a pseudo scientific manner with notes, illustrations and explanations. I like that.

This is a book I would use in my 4th grade classroom, however because I have returned to first grade this year I will offer my review copy to the youngsters who were my students last year. I suspect that they will enjoy the book very much. Expectation and projection all play an important part in the reading of the narrative. Author Spearman obviously has great fun with his writing of Barry Boyhound.

I received a library binding copy for review from the publisher. Happy to recommend for the target audience.

Reviewed by: Molly’s Reviews
molly martin
20+ years classroom teacher

Genre: Middle Grades Fiction
Author: Andy Spearman
Line/Publisher Alfred A Knopf New York
ISBN-10: 044042058X ISBN-13: 978-0440420583  


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Reviewed by Safi
bravo! good job. SAFI
Reviewed by Tinka Boukes
Excellent review Molly!!

Love Tinka
Reviewed by Karen Vanderlaan
great review-sounds like a good read aloud for a class
Reviewed by Regis Auffray
Thank you for sharing this informative review, Molly. I can see how useful it will be for teachers (educators) and parents alike. Love and peace,


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