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THE DEATH-DEFYING PEPPER ROUX by Geraldine McCaughrean Kirkus Star


by Geraldine McCaughrean

Age Range: 12 & up

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-06-183665-7
Publisher: HarperCollins

Poor Pepper Roux (his nickname “le pauvre,” or “pitiful one,” was confused at school with “poivre,” French for “pepper”) has been waiting for death for as long as he can remember. According to his malevolent Aunt Mireille, Saint Constance had foretold he’d die by age 14, and due to his rather awful family’s quotidian reminders of this, “The days clattered down like rows of dominoes.” When he finds himself still alive on his 14th birthday, Pepper escapes, and the string of adventures and grim-reaper–dodging identity shifts that follows (from sea captain to telegram boy) comprise this laugh-out-loud funny, picaresque adventure set in early-20th-century France. British novelist McCaughrean’s frequently over-the-top metaphors mirror the delightfully implausible plot—a slapstick story salted with colorful characters both cruel and kind, anchored in the emotional reality of a painfully naïve boy who gets quite a bit wiser. The refrain—“Well, people see what they expect to see. Or do they see what they want?”—sits at the heart of this poignant, odd, wonderfully composed and vastly entertaining novel. (Fiction. 12 & up)