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by Lucy Frank

Age Range: 12 - 15

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-689-84903-6
Publisher: Richard Jackson/Atheneum

A maverick bureaucrat becomes a mentor of sorts for an unhappy lad in this offbeat fantasy. Spending an uncomfortable Christmas week with his dad and stepfamily in New York City, 12-year-old Lucas notices an unusual number of pedestrians in greenish overcoats, muttering urgently into cell phones. An irascible Santa named Izzy Gribitz clues him in: like Izzy, they’re employees of the Annoyance Bureau, a little-known agency charged with removing or disabling life’s petty peeves. Only, Izzy claims, the Bureau is wasting much of its effort—a situation he aims to remedy with the Irkostat, a remote-control-like device of his own invention that “inspects, detects, protects, and corrects” annoyances with the push of a button. Gladly agreeing to become Izzy’s apprentice, Lucas begins compiling a list of personal annoyances—topped by his waspish stepsister Phoebe. As Lucas is more absorbed in fretting about his own situation and Izzy’s uncertain status in the Bureau than actually doing anything, this is stronger on premise than plot or character. Near the end, he does take a more active role, ultimately working out better relationships with his dad and, perhaps, even Phoebe, but what is more likely to engage readers are his rib-tickling encounters with distracted Bureau workers, as they scuttle about with bins of confiscated Tickle Me Elmos, self-help books, and the like. Tongue-in-cheek to the max. (Fiction. 12-15)