Reviews for Rex Zero and the End of the World

Booklist Reviews 2007 March #1
"Rex Zero and I have a lot in common," Wynne-Jones says in an afterword to this first-person, present-tense narrative that depicts, in part, what it was like growing up in a big family that moved to Ottawa in the early 1960s. The shadow of the cold war is ever present. Some neighbors and government agencies build bomb shelters, and Rex's angry sister is obsessed with the nuclear threat ("Reds and Yanks have to be stopped"). But for Rex, the big problem is making new friends as he starts sixth grade in a new place. There's a bit too much period trivia about such things as TV and movie characters, but the sense of looming doomsday will hold readers, as will the timeless drama of moving and trying to fit in. ((Reviewed March 1, 2007)) Copyright 2007 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2007 Fall
At the height of the Cold War, Rex's family moves to Ottawa, where he joins a neighborhood gang tracking down an escaped panther. The present-tense narrative is brilliant in its near stream-of-consciousness depiction of Rex's world. The meticulous plotting sets the enormity of world destruction against the equally cataclysmic concerns of childhood, all magnified through the protagonist's vivid imagination. Copyright 2007 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2007 #2
What to do when the end of the world has a date on it? The homeless man's sign says it will come on October 23, and it doesn't seem all that far-fetched. The TV is full of news about Krushchev and Castro, the neighbors are building a bomb shelter, and just what was that strange beast Rex caught a glimpse of in the park? Canadian novelist Wynne-Jones presents young American readers with a time and place unsettlingly foreign despite its relative proximity: Ottawa in 1962, at the height of the Cold War. Rex and his family have just moved from Vancouver, and his top priority is making friends and fitting in, so when he finds a neighborhood gang happily occupied with tracking down an escaped zoo panther, he joins them wholeheartedly. The present-tense narrative is brilliant in its near stream-of-consciousness depiction of the world as Rex sees it, with the vague but looming grown-up menaces distilling themselves into the threat of the panther, a concrete danger that Rex feels he and his friends can-indeed must, in the face of adult powerlessness-contain. The meticulous plotting sets the enormity of world destruction against the equally cataclysmic concerns of childhood, all magnified through the lens of Rex's vivid imagination. It's a historic narrative that resonates eerily and effectively today. Copyright 2007 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2007 February #1
Lonely and friendless, Rex Norton-Norton has just moved to Ottawa. It's the summer of 1962, right before the Cuban Missile Crisis, and even tadpole-collecting kids like Rex are caught up in the fear of an impending nuclear war. But there are other crises afoot: The neighborhood children believe there is a panther loose in the city park, and Rex is determined to help them capture it. The seemingly innocent games played by Rex and his new friends are touched by the apocalyptic fear shared by Canada's adults. Wynne-Jones brushes Rex's story with the affectionate light of nostalgia: Brownie cameras, Raleigh three-speed bikes and glass bottles of pop from the corner store, all in a world seen as ultimately hopeful. But any distance created by this fond glow of memory is more than made up for by the intricately flavored details of Rex's life, from his toy gun-wielding sister Annie Oakley, to his obsession with mixing up the colors of his paint-by-numbers kits. Delightfully nerve-wracking, eccentric and optimistic. (Fiction. 9-12) Copyright Kirkus 2007 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2007 February #1

Wynne-Jones (A Thief in the House of Memory ) draws on his own childhood to describe events leading up to the Cold War. In the summer of 1962, narrator Rex Harrison and his family move to Ottawa from Vancouver. The tension between the U.S. and Russia permeates everything this summer. A homeless man announces the end of the world on a placard, while others build bomb shelters. It seems only Rex's parents aren't taking the threats seriously. One evening, while walking his dog in the park, Rex's dog pulls him toward something hiding in the bushes. A brief glance is enough to convince him that it's dangerous ("It tilts back its head and roars"). His older sister thinks it's a mutant: the fallout from the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. However, Rex's new friends believe it's a panther that escaped from a zoo a few years ago. Throughout the summer, the kids work on a plan to capture the beast. The author subtly draws a parallel between the intangible Cold War fear and fear of the elusive creature. Despite the weighty themes, Wynne-Jones writes with a light, often humorous touch and maintains a perspective true to an 11-year-old's perspective. As Rex muses on the idea of the world ending, he understands that "one world seems to come crashing to a halt and you invent another." This winning hero paints a universe both hopeful and realistic, one that readers may well want to visit. Ages 8-12. (Mar.)

[Page 60]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

School Library Journal Reviews 2007 May

Gr 5-8 -It is 1962, and Rex Norton-Norton (aka Rex Zero) has been transplanted again, this time to Ottawa, along with his quirky family. With five siblings in his family, including boy-crazy Cassiopeia and Annie Oakley (who is convinced that the local nuns are Communist spies), there's plenty of activity, but no real friends for Rex and his trusty bicycle, Diablo. Lonely, he joins Kathy and her gang of kids who are convinced that an escaped panther, Tronido, is loose. Looming over the panther hunting is the backdrop of the Cold War, producing bomb shelters, rumors, and, for Rex, a few mysteries to solve. Fiction set in Canada during this period is relatively rare, making this an unusual and appealing title. Unfortunately, this book lacks an explanation of what is taking place, and its target audience won't be familiar with the historical underpinnings. Also, some of the references to TV shows and other 1960s culture will be equally baffling for kids. That said, the memorable characters and the animal mystery will keep the pages turning. Despite some confusion, readers will find something here to enjoy.-Caitlin Augusta, The Darien Library, CT

[Page 146]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

VOYA Reviews 2007 April
Eleven-year-old Rex Zero has just moved to Ottawa, Ontario, with his family during the summer of 1962. The Cold War is at its height, and bomb shelters, looking for spies, and Harry Belafonte are all the rage. Rex is worried that his new town is like the Twilight Zone-all the young people seem to have disappeared. He spends much of his time riding his bicycle, "Diablo," and trying to avoid the placard man in the park who claims that the world will end the next October. Then he meets Buster, James, and Kathy. The group becomes obsessed with tracking down the escaped panther from the Toronto zoo, an animal that seems to have made its way to the woods near their neighborhood. The main issue with this title is that the audience is somewhat difficult to determine. It requires a certain understanding of genre conventions, ironic humor, and historical events, but it is written at a low reading level, somewhat in the same way as Whales on Stilts by M. T. Anderson (Harcourt, 2005). The cast of characters is eccentric and charming, but few have any concrete development. The story is told in a fairly simple style, but it seems to drag at certain points. Overall it is an amusing read and could certainly spark some discussion of another era, but it might be a tough sell to middle school students.-Angela Semifero 3Q 2P M Copyright 2007 Voya Reviews.