An Australian boy obsessed with “toppling” dominoes finds his world wobbling when his best friend develops cancer.
John collects domino tiles, which he arranges in long, complex patterns that he then knocks over. He’d like nothing better than “to play dominoes / all day, every day,” causing his sister Tess to call him “nerd boy.” John’s best friend, Dominic, is “fun / and funny / and honest / and pretty cool.” Other pals include smart Joseph, jokester Christian and Tran from Vietnam. John admits he’s “not smart / or funny / or from far away. / I’m just me.” When their fifth-grade teacher assigns individual research projects, John naturally picks dominoes as his topic, but he’s soon distracted and worried when he learns Dominic has a tumor on his kidney requiring surgery and chemotherapy. Afraid his best friend may die and unsure of how to act, John tries to think of what he can do to help. In the end, he and his pals find the perfect way to give Dominic the support he needs. John gives his story immediacy and authenticity by speaking in colloquial first-person, present-tense free verse. Black-and-white illustrations capture the ups and downs of friends trying to keep their buddy from toppling.
Engaging and poignant. (Verse novel. 8-12)