Vikki VanSickle's Reviews > The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen
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's review
Sep 20, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: canadian, middle-grade, ya

Henry is my favourite Nielsen protagonist yet. He manages to be sweet and vulnerable without being cloying or un-relatable. Sometimes I worry that male readers don’t gravitate towards sensitive male narrators, but that won’t be an issue here. Henry is too specific to be an “everykid” (thank goodness), but Nielsen has given him lots of traits and worries and interests that will endear him to a wide range of readers.

His grieving process is handled carefully. Henry has moments of anger, fear, regret, and deep sadness. This is not a book about grief, though it permeates every page. There are some harsh revelations, and I love how Nielsen never beats around the bush or alludes to things- she just goes for it. This applies to “rude” jokes, violent bullying, or “unsavoury” language. There is no sugar-coating or avoidance. I appreciate this honesty and so will her young readers.

All this being said, this is one of the funniest middle grade books I’ve read all year. I don’t think Nielsen could NOT be funny if she tried (this is a compliment). In this country literary merit is not associated with humourous writing, at least not in children’s fiction. A quick look at the GG winners and finalists over the past decade demonstrates a preference for historical fiction and/0r gritty subject matter. These books may have moments of humour, but they are by no means funny books.Humour is exceedingly difficult to pull off, especially for children. When done right, it speaks to them in a way that no other style does. Kids need funny, they crave it. Shouldn’t we recognize those skilled authors who can pull it off?

Nielsen is by no means stranger to awards, as her previous work has scooped up numerous nominations (and a few wins), mostly in children’s choice award categories. Again, here is the discrepancy between child friendly and awards- friendly. A few authors manage to bridge this gap but most end up being one or the other. The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen may be about the aftermath of a murder-suicide, but it is a deeply funny book. I hope that this year awards committees give Nielsen the literary cred she deserves.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Kat (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kat I also really loved this one. Great review

Brenyn Hodge I also loved the character Henry, he was easy to connect to was very believable. I liked the rawness of the book and how Nielsen did not sugar coat anything by using strong powerful language.

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