20130120200728!Goggle-Eyes_coverCARNEGIE MEDAL WINNER – 1989


by Anne Fine

Age: 10+

Interests: family, divorce, single mom, politics, activism, stepfathers

Puffin Books: 1989

140 pages, 8 chapters

Also by this author: Flour Babies, Madame Doubtfire, Bill’s New Frock, The Tulip Touch

11-year-old Kitty Killin is the world’s best story-teller but that’s not why her teacher picks her to go down to the cloak room to talk to a distraught classmate. Poor Helly is upset about her mom’s new boyfriend, and Kitty just happens to be an expert on that very problem. She relates to Helly the saga of Gerald, aka “Goggle-Eyes”, her mom’s boyfriend who is also the opposite of Kitty in every way imaginable. It’s an all-out war: Kitty enlists every sly insult and snub in her arsenal but Gerald is not easily discouraged. What surprises Kitty the most is that her normally feisty mom not only puts up with Gerald’s criticisms of their messy household, she even agrees with him! Matters do come to a head when Gerald tags along on an anti-nuclear protest. Kitty’s Mom is arrested, when she gets home they have a huge argument and she chucks Gerald out for good. It is just then that Kitty realizes Gerald may have a few good points after all…

This story of family angst is very entertaining. The politics is a bit dated, with its Cold War anti-nuke issues, but today’s environmental activists will still find much in common with Kitty. Books for this age range don’t usually delve into politics, but the political divide is a perfect battle ground for Gerald vs. the Killins. The episode of the anti-nuke demonstration is very funny. I also liked the fact that Kitty and Gerald only learn to co-exist peacefully when they accept their differences. That can be a hard lesson for pre-teens, who tend to view any variance of opinion as a deal-breaker when it comes to getting along with others – especially if that ‘other’ is a rightwing potential stepfather. For his part, Gerald isn’t ‘brought round’ to the Killin clan’s virulent anti-nuke point of view, but he does learn to appreciate and respect their passion.

Kitty is a feisty one herself, and her first-person narrative is spiced with loads of pre-teen attitude, delivered in British slang (which just makes it funnier). This is a comedic but entirely realistic portrayal of a colourful, off-kilter family.

P.S. One reference in the book did jump out at me, I have to admit. During a detailed description of Kitty’s incredibly filthy room there is a casual, passing mention of a “pot plant”. A quick internet search reveals that in Britain “pot plant” simply means a “potted plant”!

(this title available via amazon.com)


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Aidan
    Sep 13, 2014 @ 08:43:53

    Hey Kim thought of you when I saw this one… http://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/want-to-be-a-nerdy-blogger/

    I’m swimming through book titles right now as I’m assistant librarian/book buyer for the school this year. There are just thousands of possibilities, but with 50 kids and a tiny budget I’ve got to decide what goes on the MUST-HAVE list for our collection. A fun hunt indeed!!




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.
%d bloggers like this: