Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4.5
What did you like about the book? On a small cul-de-sac in a suburb of London, Matty watches his neighborhood from the window of his bedroom. He has stopped going to school and rarely leaves the house. He observes the eccentricities of neighbors outside his window, keeping track of who goes where, and when, in his journal. He also describes to the reader the increasingly strong compulsion to wash his hands and disinfect his room, for hours at a time, from germs that may kill him or his family. The goldfish boy, as he appears to neighbors through the window, watches as Mr. Charles next door welcomes his two grandchildren, Casey and Teddy for a visit. And he is the last person to see 2 yr old Teddy before he disappears. There are parallel story lines: the interior struggle of Matty with his compulsions, and the mystery of Teddy’s disappearance. As Matty develops theories on who the kidnapper may be, he attempts to leave his house to do detective work, risking germs and ridicule. He also forges grudging alliances with kids in his neighborhood who have sorrows of their own. Matty inspires sympathy and admiration and presents a soberingly realistic picture of a young person with a debilitating illness.The reader may pick up on the link between his illness and the grief and guilt Matty feels over the death of his baby brother. I like that the author does not name Matty’s illness (OCD) for much of the book, as it allows the reader to focus on him and his investigation without labeling him.
Anything you didn’t like about it? I found it distressing that Matty’s parents took so long to help their son with his illness. But kids may not note this.
To whom would you recommend this book? Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree (Tarshis), Fish in a Tree (Hunt) and Counting by Sevens (Sloan) come to mind as read-alikes.
Who should buy this book? Elementary, middle school and public libraries
Where would you shelve it ? Fiction
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA
Date of review: March 2, 2017