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HOW I BECAME A WRITER AND OGGIE LEARNED TO DRIVE by Janet Taylor Lisle

HOW I BECAME A WRITER AND OGGIE LEARNED TO DRIVE

By Janet Taylor Lisle

Age Range: 9 - 12

Pub Date: April 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-399-23394-6
Publisher: Philomel

Eleven-year-old Archie habitually protects and insulates little brother Oggie, who is overcome with uncontrollable shivering when frightened, and given to hiding from the school bully in a closet. Oggie seems all the more vulnerable as the brothers boomerang between Mom and Dad’s two homes, which they refer to as Jupiter and Saturn. As part of his strategy for distracting Oggie on really bad days, would-be author Archie makes up an episodic story about the “Mystery of the Mole People.” When Oggie’s cherished red wallet (stuffed with his savings) is stolen by a tough gang called the Night Riders, Archie unwisely promises to get it back. The opportunity presents itself when Oggie attracts the gang’s admiring attention after he accidentally foils a late-night hold-up, holding a gun on the criminal till police arrive. Archie becomes imprudently entangled with the gang as he plans to retrieve Oggie’s wallet, leading to a dénouement during which six-year-old Oggie drives the getaway car as the brothers narrowly escape the gang. His ingenious driving technique involves alternating between looking out the windshield and pressing the accelerator. The conclusion finds Oggie in possession of his wallet while Archie the writer realizes that “there always needs to be a little tragedy at the end of a good story,” whether it is the irreversible death of a beloved character or the deep-down knowledge that his parents will never reconcile. Lacking the whimsical magic of The Lost Flower Children (1999), this is nevertheless a solidly readable title for middle graders. The theme of children coping with lives that have become random and unpredictable following the breakup of their parents, is given freshness by two lovably engaging main characters, humorous narration, and a slightly screwball plot that (although improbable) steams forward with real tension and danger. (Fiction. 9-12)