Well, I must stay that over the past several years a worrisome trend has reversed itself and we have recently been treated to a growing number of YA books that not only present a good story, but ones that are well written. The reason for this, in my opinion, is due to the increase in quality books such as the one being reviewed here by PV Lundqvist. Readers and teachers are demanding more and they now are receiving it. What a delightful read this one was.
Young Benny (Actually, his name is Bengt, something the young lad changed to Benny on his own, as soon as he was able), wants a pet. He will settle for a cat but what he really wants is a dog. Benny has been blessed with, or cursed with...depending on how you want to look at it, a "creative" mother, ergo the name Bengt; a name that is not ordinary and common, you see. Well anyway, on his birthday Benny indeed does receive a new pet, not a cat, not a dog, not even a cool big lizard; no, no, no...a Vietnamese Potbellied pig no less!
And so we are instantly drawn into the life of Benny, a kid who wants what normal kids his age want; acceptance, making the baseball team, no hassles from bullies and of course a dog. Like real life though, not all always turns out the way our young lad would like. There seems to be trouble from every direction. There is of course the acceptance factor, relationships with family members and life's lessons to be learned.
This is a well told tale of growing up; of being at that very strange and difficult age when a boy is leaving childhood behind and is learning to join the adult world. The author has skillfully woven family, school, community, friends, baseball, rivals, and of course pets into a story which is quite often full of humor, often filled with the anxieties of growing up, and above all, the lessons learned during this difficult period in the maturation process of us all. But make no mistake; not all is grim life. This writer has a keen sense of humor and it shines through on almost ever page.
Lundqvist has gotten his characters down perfectly as well as the relationship between these various characters as the story progresses...including that of the pig. The story moves on at a very nice clip which causes the work to be a bit of a page turner in a mellow and concerned sort way. I liked that. I also noted that there was not one instance or incident in the book that was not completely believable. This would also hold true for each and ever character which allows almost instant empathy on the reader's part on all fronts. The reader will be able to absolutely identify with not only the characters but also the dilemmas and situations as they pop up in young Benny's life.
Being "officially" retired now, I spend my days as a substitute teacher, and for the most part work with kids of middle school age; the age this young boy in this book. It should also be noted that my wife and I were one of the first breeders of Vietnamese Potbellied Pigs in the United States and spent several years raising, training and showing these little creatures. We have had several "house pigs" of our own. I can fully attest to the fact that this author does now his middle school age children and does know his pigs!
I have been preaching all my life that each of us must follow their own drummer, and if perchance some of us choose a tambourine player, well so be it; so much the better! The author has worked in several very important lessons in this work without being preachy or overbearing in the least. As a matter of fact, he is rather sneaky about it.
Strong plot, good and believable characters, crisp prose and a story line that moves; what more could you want in a book?