Kirkus Reviews QR Code
I SMELL LIKE HAM by Betty Hicks

I SMELL LIKE HAM

By Betty Hicks

Age Range: 8 - 12

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-7613-1748-1
Publisher: Roaring Brook

Eleven-year-old Nick has to go to school smelling like the cloves his new stepmother puts into the shampoo, and that’s just the beginning in this humorous yet true-to-life portrayal of family blending and sixth-grade angst. Nick’s mom died two years ago, and even though he’s always wanted a baby brother, he’s less than thrilled when his Dad marries Miriam and she and nerdy third-grader Dwayne move in. Concurrently, Nick’s trying to figure out his place on the basketball team (teammate Carson Jones seems to have locked up the starting point-guard position) and among his own friends. Not only is Carson a threat on the court, he challenges Nick and even Dwayne to try cigarettes on Halloween and lies to the coach about missing a practice. Caught between his newfound responsibility for Dwayne and his own attempts to fit in despite his anger at his friends, Nick must finesse many familiar scenarios: peer pressure, competing for a spot on the team, and negotiating difficult family relations. Nick is a realistic, likable “tween,” neither too squeaky-clean nor an unregenerate troublemaker. First-novelist Hicks gives Dwayne, Miriam, and Dad enough dimensions to avoid creating the familiar stereotypes of the pesky baby brother, evil stepmother, and out-of-touch Dad, which is refreshing. The turning point for Nick nicely completes the story: Dwayne disappears, and Nick figures out where he is. Especially satisfying is the beginning of a real relationship between the two boys, forged while they’re on their own until Nick’s able to convince Dwayne to come home. (Fiction. 8-12)