THE BOY WITH THE LAMPSHADE ON HIS HEAD

Bruce Wetter, Author . S&S/Atheneum $16.95 (300p) ISBN 978-0-689-85032-5

Stanley, the protagonist of Wetter's striking if flawed debut, might be a tongue-tied geek to his fifth-grade classmates, but in his own mind he is the Very Famous Stanley Krakow, constantly trailed by surreptitious ESPN vans that record his every record-breaking move. At home he puts a lampshade on his head (the record for number of times his parents pass him without noticing is 20; the record for most minutes before being discovered is 52). The farcical elements here can grow to extreme proportions: Stanley's mother labels his camp clothes with the initials SUKS (for Stanley Uriah Krakow, and "The 'S' shows possession"); Stanley's uncle has cracked up and now thinks he's Alan Ladd; and all Stanley's martinet of a teacher cares about is maintaining order for order's sake. In addition to this nutty mix, Stanley also has regular-guy adventures with boys in the neighborhood and, every now and then, thinks about the new girl, Theresa Wasnicki, whose mother forces her to mow the lawn with scissors. Wetter's decision to exaggerate some but not all of the storytelling might make it harder for readers to see that Theresa is being abused by her mother, especially because the author devotes more space to picaresque adventures than to the conflicts surrounding Theresa—even though these form the moral linchpin of the story. While this work loses focus, the author maintains a distinctive voice; his next novel is one to anticipate with pleasure. Ages 8-12. (May)

Reviewed on: 05/10/2004
Release date: 05/01/2004
Genre: Children's
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