Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, the 1993 Booker Prize Winner, is no Ha Ha Ha story even though there is no lack of Ha Ha Ha moments, as you cannot help but be entertained by the antics of a bunch of 10-year-old boys. Roddy Doyle brilliantly captured the psychology of children and created a credible world of childhood play and dialogue that rang true and real. Paddy and his little brother, Sinbad, spent their school day enduring the tyranny of less than inspiring teachers who could all but “kill” them. The need to belong was palpable as Paddy and his schoolmates bonded in ways that would worry any parent. Doyle described an endless stream of mischievous and aggressive games that were the boys’ daily staple. They hung out at half-completed construction sites setting fires, pouring lighter fluid into Sinbad’s mouth, bursting tar bubbles, stealing nails, giving dead legs, and “pruning”. There were times when all the inventive mischief began to grate on the reader and you could laugh no more. But as is often true of at-risk children, Paddy’s world was falling apart and you feel his pain. His parents’ marriage was breaking up and he had no way of understanding why, though he desperately tried to help maintain equilibrium. Then swiftly followed the end of Paddy’s childhood when the chant that rang out was “Paddy Clarke, Paddy Clarke, has no da, ha, ha, ha!” Doyle’s understatement of grief was mingled with the depiction of uncontrollable zest in being alive at age ten, sweetness, and a fearless belief that one can live forever. Good book.