cover image Misery Guts

Misery Guts

Morris Gleitzman. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P, $12.95 (122pp) ISBN 978-0-15-254768-4

In these companion novels, Keith tackles his troubles in a loopy but wholehearted fashion. When he perceives that his parents' fish-and-chips shop in England is making them both miserable, the boy realizes that drastic action is called for. He paints the shop mango orange; his labors don't even raise a smile. Then Keith accidentally leaves a fryer on and the business burns down. He knows it's his chance to get the family to move to a sunnier, happier clime--Australia. In the second book, Keith has a fresh set of worries in the new shop, as his parents grow unhappy again. The two books combine a cheeky brand of humor with a sensible, tolerant attitude toward the emotional ups and downs of family life. A few odd words and phrases notwithstanding (``fossicker,'' ``mullock heaps''), Gleitzman's ( Two Weeks with the Queen ) colorful phraseology (``you daft bugger''; ``cockatoos playing chess in Gympie'') and his hero's quirky antics make these novels fine choices for middle-school readers. Ages 8-12. (Mar.)