Sunday, September 25, 2016

A Boy Named Queen by Sara Cassidy

A Boy Named Queen is an ideal book for kids just starting middle school, where everything is different, but being different isn't always welcomed.  Free-spirited Queen is unlike anyone Evelyn, 10, has ever known and she is fascinated with him.  Queen and his loving, free spirited family represent everything Evelyn's life is not supposed to be according to her conventional mother. But underneath the ordinary exterior her mother has created for her, Evelyn is a girl with a lively imagination, a girl who just wants to be liberated from the conventions of her life.

Evelyn's mother is a person who loves order and routine (Evelyn not so much).  But when it comes time to buy new school shoes for beginning fifth grade, Evelyn's mother is dismayed to find that their regular shoe store has been sold to a franchise called Budget Shoes.  What it means for Evelyn is that she can get something other than the loafers her mother routinely buys her, something like a pair of blue canvas shoes. So what if they are a little tight, they're different.

On the first day of school, there is a new kid in Evelyn's class, a boy with long hair, wearing jeans with holey, stringy tears and a faded pink t-shirt accented with several bead necklaces.  Introduced as Queen, he is assigned to a seat next the Evelyn. And it doesn't take long for the bullying and the sarcastic, snide comments to begin, especially among the boys in the class.  When Evelyn sees Queen trying to shoot hoops during lunch, she goes over and shows him how to do it right.  It doesn't take long before the two are friends with each other.

At first, Evelyn thinks Queen should give in and become more like everyone else, so the other kids would leave him alone.  But when she says something to him about it, he teaches her how he deals with all the negativity directed his way.  Queen simply creates a colorful force field in him mind, allowing only the good things that come his way into it, while bad things are left outside of it.  To her surprise, Evelyn discovers it really works.

By the time, Evelyn is invited to Queen's birthday party, Queen's influence has been working on her little by little.  And even though her mother insists that they buy a present, even though Queen doesn't want any, and that she dress up, even though that isn't necessary for this party, Evelyn goes along with it, knowing this was going to be a different kind of party.  And it is, one that will change her in wonderful way so that she will never be the same afterward.  

A Boy Named Queen is a short, but powerful book, more novella than novel.  And it should be remembered that this is Evelyn's story, not Queen's.  It is about Evelyn learning to embrace her individuality, her uniqueness, and discovering ways to express it.  Queen can be seen as both a friend and a mentor, and he is a wonderful mentor.  Evelyn already has a vivid inner life, but it takes Queen to show her how to release it and still get along in the world with confidence.  And those too tight new blue canvas shoes are symbolic of the changes Evelyn is about to undergo, breaking with her mother's control on her life, and becoming more of an independent individual.

I think the writing in A Boy Named Queen is just beautiful: fluid, expressive and Sara Cassidy is really spot on in her descriptions. Using few words, she creates a full picture of both characters and settings, not an easy thing to do in a book with only 77 pages.  This is a book I would give to every fifth-grader to read before beginning middle school, but don't get me wrong, it is perfect for any young reader.  I have to be honest and say I wish I had this beautifully written book to give to my Kiddo when she was 10 years old.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was sent to me by the publisher, Groundwood Books

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is a weekly event hosted by Shannon Messenger at Book Ramblings, and Plenty of Shenanigans


  1. Sounds like a great story but way too short. Maybe there will be a sequel. Thanks for the heads up on this one.

    1. I agree, it is short, but it does say what it needs to say, and sometimes, a short read is just what a reader wants.

  2. First of all, I must say how much I like the cover and the title reminds me of ' a boy named Sue' as sung by Johnny Cash. I love the idea of a colourful force field in the mind and must think about creating one of those for myself! More importantly I must stash a copy of this away for when my granddaughters are a little older, it sounds like the perfect book for a young person.

  3. Great review! I haven't seen this book, so it's fun to add a new one to my list. :)

  4. Excellent review. You gave me a strong sense of the story, without revealing what happens. Now I'll have to read the story, because I'm curious.

  5. Wow, I'd heard good things about this one but I didn't realize it was so short. That almost makes me more interested in checking it out :P

  6. I hadn't heard of this. I am definitely going to read it. Thanks for telling me about it.

  7. Sounds interesting! I think my library has this so I'll check it out.

  8. I like short books! I don't feel cheated as other people do. I think, "COOL! THIS can keep my attention." Of course, I've read more than a few 1,000-page books in my time.


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