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Rex Zero and the End of the World

Review

Rex Zero and the End of the World

Rex Zero has an amazing mind --- it takes everything he sees through his calculating, curious 11-year-old eyes and processes it in ways that make sense to him, specifically in his Cold War Ottawa circa 1962. Having just relocated from Vancouver with his big family, Rex is determined not to be lonely for the rest of the summer. In the course of his neighborhood wanderings, he befriends two kids with movie-star names: James Stewart and Buster (Kevin) Keaton. They are responsible for Rex's interesting new nomenclature: the boys call him Rex Norton-Norton (a name of Welsh descent), which translates to "Rex Zero" (Norton minus Norton equals zero).

Despite his active reading schedule, his love of Punch magazine (which he uses to build a bomb shelter for himself) and other boyhood intellectual pursuits, Rex finds the Communist threat to be the most interesting of all the possible activities out there. And, of course, it's the political threats that keep him and those around him both fascinated and horrified.

Everybody is completely and obsessively transfixed by the trappings of Cold War society: plans for bombs shelters, the scary possibility of air raids and finding gas masks are on the minds of adults and children alike, and TV shows about Cuba (this is the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, of course) make it all seem even more dire. Rex Zero and his pals spend their time thinking about nuclear war, and analyzing the world political situation is a pastime that requires some really strange and interesting analysis on their part. With escaped wild animals on the loose from the local zoo and a homeless man proclaiming the end of the world on a sandwich card, as well as the trials and tribulations of a big family in the about-to-explode (not literally but figuratively in all respects) 1960s, Rex has his hands full of drama.

Tim Wynne-Jones has fashioned not only a book for tweens that will draw them in on the strength of Rex's adventures and strange imaginings, but also a book that parents will enjoy since many of them grew up in the book's era of uncertainty and change. Rex is a great kid, like Tom Sawyer for the nuclear age. These boyhood tales, combined with the thick and expansive atmosphere of impending disaster, heighten all of Rex's adventures and color his relationships with his new friends and his family, as well as the prophets of doom and destruction that surround him.

Although the subject matter is, upon reflection, very intense, there is a buoyant quality to the author's words and to the wonderful mind of Rex that keeps REX ZERO AND THE END OF THE WORLD from dissolving into a TV movie of the week about growing up in the midst of turmoil. Instead, it's a full-on romp that readers will really respond to. But brush up on your history lessons, parents, because it will raise a lot of questions as well, and that's not a bad thing.

REX ZERO AND THE END OF THE WORLD is a door to an exciting hybrid of history and fantasy that kids and adults alike will love!

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on February 20, 2007

Rex Zero and the End of the World
by Tim Wynne-Jones

  • Publication Date: March 5, 2013
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Square Fish
  • ISBN-10: 0312644604
  • ISBN-13: 9780312644604