cover image Brothers


Bart Moeyaert, , illus. by Gerda Dendooven, trans. by Wanda J. Boeke. . Front Street, $16.95 (163pp) ISBN 978-1-932425-18-5

The collection of vignettes about the Belgian author's (Bare Hands ) childhood as the youngest of seven brothers, initially serialized in a literary magazine, is a curious offering. The unnamed narrator, keenly aware of his bottom-rung place in the pecking order, chronicles how his brothers routinely give him a glassy-eyed look that reminds him he's "young, very young, even—the youngest, really." But it's a loving bunch, "bunch" being the operative word here since none of the brothers is named, and no details about any of them given. Their adventures are of the boys-will-be-boys variety—peeing into a neighbor's pool as revenge for being refused use of it, plotting the theft of an apple pie from the bakery van that brings warm goods door-to-door. Though framed in the young Moeyaert's point of view, the stories unfold mostly in first-person plural ("We all nodded"'; "We took off our shirts"), as if to suggest the brothers are not so much individuals but rather a collective of like-minded "hooligans." Moeyaert's oblique style of backing into every episode may be somewhat disorienting for readers, though he includes lovely phrases (e.g., the bakery van trails "a banner of fragrance"), and occasional chuckles, as when the brothers put onions in their armpits in an attempt to make themselves feverish so they can miss school. But these aren't stories so much as situations in vague settings, giving the writing an almost dream-like quality that can be difficult to follow. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)