MY LIFE OF CRIME by Richard Jennings


Age Range: 10 - 13
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An otherwise law-abiding and unremarkable—by design—sixth-grader finds himself almost irresistibly drawn to a life of larceny after he “liberates” a mistreated parrot from a third-grade classroom. Like his predecessor in Jennings’s The Great Whale of Kansas (2001), Fowler is a distinctly idiosyncratic and fundamentally solitary kid. He takes as his guide to life Bleeth’s Complete Compendium for Boys, which seems to have the answer to almost every question under the sun, organized for almost transparent access. As Fowler says, however, “The only problem with relying on Bleeth whenever you’re stumped for an answer is that Bleeth uses big words where smaller ones would do. After a lifetime of exposure to this, I sometimes catch myself talking like him.” Indeed, Fowler’s voice is so preternaturally unchildlike, so arch in its irony, that it is hard to believe in him. The actual narrative—Fowler steals the bird and then becomes more and more entangled in his own plot to keep the bird from discovery, even going to such lengths as to take oboe lessons from the very teacher he stole the parrot from—is mildly amusing. But without any real investment in Fowler as a living, breathing character, the reader may find herself questioning some of the key elements—such as Fowler’s parents’ extended and indefinite absence, leaving him with no real adult supervision and no money whatsoever. Secondary characters are likewise quirky but not much else, making this offering an ultimately tepid effort that never really pulls itself together to become the sly farce it is clearly meant to be. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 2002
ISBN: 0-618-21433-X
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Walter Lorraine/Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2002