Richard W. Jennings, Author . Houghton/Lorraine $15 (160p) ISBN 978-0-618-21433-4

Fowler, the sixth-grader at the center of Jennings's (Orwell's Luck) buoyant, briskly paced novel, explains that, despite his unusual first name, his life is quite ordinary: "I'm average-looking, make average grades, and have parents who are so thoroughly average in every way that there's hardly anything to say about them." Yet as a narrator, Fowler is hardly average, offering a flip and funny interior monologue that relays a decidedly unordinary episode in his life. Dismayed at the condition of the bedraggled, balding parrot that lives in a filthy cage in a third-grade classroom, Fowler decides to steal the bird and take it home (which is conveniently, if rather incredibly, void of adults, since the boy's parents are away on separate trips). What initially appears to be a simple plan develops comical tangles when Fowler's attempt to frame the class geek for the theft fails: instead of getting the crook off the hook, his misguided plot lands him in oboe lessons taught by the "pink-haired, pear-shaped" teacher from whose classroom he has purloined the parrot. His snowballing misadventures—as well as passages he consults in his beloved bible, Bleeth's Complete Compendium for Boys—teach Fowler some valuable lessons, which he wryly shares with readers. Cool-headed, logical K, the boy's closest friend and the secret object of his affection, provides a credible counterpoint to this impulsive, appealingly bird-brained hero. Ages 8-12. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 10/28/2002
Release date: 10/01/2002
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!