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Page history last edited by RichiesPicks 13 years, 3 months ago

11 May 2002 JINX by Margaret Wild, Walker & Co., August 2002


JEN >>>dream machine


Charlie loves two things:


and his dream machine.

It was a rusty old bomb

but Charlie and his dad

worked on it for a year.

It's a Mazda RX2 Capella

with a rotary engine,

lowered suspension,

tinted windows,

sports exhaust,

alloy wheels,

and a sound system with

subwoofers and an amp.


You can hear it booming

a mile away.

Mom says it's embarrassing:

"Testosterone on wheels."

Once, she needed a lift--

wore dark glasses

and huddled in the back

in case her friends saw her.


I don't tell her how we cruise

up and down Norton Street

making the coffee drinkers



Telling stories in verse goes back to Homer.  More recently, there have been sacred texts of major religions, along with the likes of Dante, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Ernest Thayer, Clement Clarke Moore, Bob Dylan, and Ani DiFranco.  Verse is the genesis of literature.  The language of verse is so appealing that the works of these poets has endured for hundreds or thousands of years. 


Nevertheless, if there were verse novels when I was a kid, it was a secret to me.  It has been in the last dozen years that the genre has really taken off, with exceptional works by Karen Hesse, Mel Glenn, Sonya Sones, Virginia Euwer Wolff, Ron Koertge, and Ann Turner, among others.


Great verse novels are typically filled with wonderful language.  I love how the form permits an author to incorporate this language into a sophisticated story while paring the words to a minimum.  How each poem in the book can present a complete, unique, little picture.  How the form allows authors to present the perspectives of multiple characters in a single book.


Such is the case with JINX, a gem of a verse novel, written by Australian author Margaret Wild.  JINX is the name Jen gives herself when her teenage world comes completely unglued.  We get to see and hear from Jen, as well as friends, parents, and stepparents, as they all try to find their way.


jen's mom will write


Jen's mom writes advertising copy.

She specializes in white goods:

washing machines, dryers, fridges,

freezers, dishwashers.

She hates these appliances


in corners,

power-hungry and fractious.

One day, she will have a wood stove,

and she'll write about things that matter--

she will write about birth and death,

about love and the absence of love,

about fathers and children,

about mothers and daughters,

about lovers and friends.

She'll write about the whole goddamn

wonderful, awful business

of loving and being loved.


One of the most intriguing characters of the book is Grace, Jen's sister whose Down's syndrome was detected early enough that her mom had the option of terminating the pregnancy.  That Jen's mom chose not to do so was the cause of Jen's father leaving them.


JEN >>>the smartest person


Grace can read and write.

She takes her homework

very seriously.

She borrows my history textbook

determined to read it

from cover to cover.

She can't get beyond

the first paragraph.


"I am stupid!

I am a veggie!"


She wants to be like other teenagers:



growing up




"In some ways," Mom tells her,

"you are the smartest person I know,

and the most loving."


"Hear, hear," I say.

and I mean it.


Grace sniffs,

then smiles

and gives me back my book.


She puts on her favorite video.

She has watchedThe Sound of Music

more than five hundred times,

but she still loves it.


Mom and I know it backward,

every bloody song, every bloody word.

We want to strangle Julie Andrews.


The tale gets dark enough in spots that the publisher is recommending it for Ages 14 and up.  But, as you'd expect from the author of OUR GRANNY, there is also a forthrightness and a deep joy to this poetic tale.  Amazingly, in a book that can be read in a couple of hours, Ms. Wild deals with all sorts of issues including peer and parental relationships, love, lust, forgiveness, death, and self-image.  Shortlisted by the Australian Children's Book Council for Book of the Year for Older Readers, it should gain similar attention here.


And who knows?  Maybe if we get enough of these great verse novels into kids' hands, more kids will grow up wanting to investigate the works of Homer, Chaucer, and the other golden oldies.




Ruthless's father is a geologist,

and ever since she was tiny,

she has collected

rocks and minerals.

She displays her specimens

in cabinets with shallow drawers

so she can handle them easily.

It's becoming a joke among

Ruthless's friends

that she sees them as having

the characteristics of rocks and minerals:

Serena is an opal, fracturing and chipping easily,

Connie is a volcanic bomb,

and Jen is smoky quartz.

Ruthless sees herself as granite

(a common, coarse-grained rock),

but to her friends she is gold.


Richie Partington




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