THE SCHOOLING OF CLAYBIRD CATTS

Janis Owens, Author
Janis Owens, Author . HarperCollins $24.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-009062-3
Reviewed on: 03/10/2003
Release date: 03/01/2003
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-06-009063-0
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 304 pages - 978-0-06-145379-3
Open Ebook - 304 pages - 978-0-06-145376-2
Ebook - 304 pages - 978-0-06-145381-6
Ebook - 304 pages - 978-0-06-187744-5
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Owens's third novel about the Florida Catts family covers much of the same territory as the earlier volumes, but her fans will likely enjoy this affectionate portrait of teenage narrator Clayton "Claybird" Catts. Clayton is 11 when his beloved father, Michael, dies, the first event that intrudes into Clayton's innocence. He had idealized Michael, but his relationship with his mother, Myra, is chillier; he and his best friend decide that she is a vampire, though the real reason behind her grim pallor is her dependence on a pharmacopoeia of antidepressants that leave her unable to sleep or tan. After Michael's death, his brother, Gabe, moves in with the Cattses, and eventually marries Clayton's mother. Clayton and his siblings, Sim and Missy, like Gabe well enough, in spite of the eyebrow-raising arrangement. But two years later, just before he starts high school, Clayton learns a secret about his family that drives him to leave the house and move in with his aunt. Clayton narrates these events retrospectively while describing his first year in high school. He's dyslexic and his self-esteem is heartbreakingly low ("being the token idiot in a family of child geniuses has always been a burden to me"), but, as his narration reveals, he is imaginative and perceptive. Owens infuses the story with warm humor as she traces Clayton's gradual, poignant reconciliation to his less-than-perfect family. (Mar.)

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