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Book Review: The Agony of Bun O'Keefe or Why a Great Novel is like my Mom's Meatballs.

My mom is the best cook I know. She makes her own bread, pasta and pizza. Everything is from scratch. When I was a kid, she would have me grate dry bread from the bakery that had gone uneaten. She would dress the breadcrumbs with herbs and store them. She uses them in her meatball recipe. Homemade pasta noodles, homemade tomato sauce, homemade meatballs rolled in the palm of her hand with homemade breadcrumbs were the things I looked forward to every Sunday. So much time, planning and love goes into her cooking.

A good book is just like my mom's homemade pasta with meatballs. Not only does curling up with a great book give the same comfort and satisfaction as a great meal, but a proportionate amount of time and planning goes into the writing as well. If it's a great story, and the characters lift off the page, then just like my mom's cooking, I'll eat it up.

My mom would always sigh when I wolfed down one of her meals because she knew how much time went into it, and how little time it took for me to enjoy. I always reassured her that this was a compliment, because it was just so good. And chances were, I'd go back for seconds.

This is also true of a great read. When I love a book, I go through it so quickly, and sometimes, when I'm done, I flip it over and read it again. Then, because I'm already full, I can take my time to savor the details. This is how I read The Agony of Bun O'Keefe the last two days.

Newfoundland's Heather Smith brings Bun O'Keefe to life. A fourteen-year-old runaway, Bun leaves her mother's home to find herself on the streets of St.John's among a motley crew. Bun's charm and wit got me from the get-go. She doesn't understand figurative langue, takes everything literally, and jolts people with her abrupt honesty. She struggles with her emotions, but knows she is in the right place when her new family gives her everything her mother, a compulsive hoarder couldn't. This story has a tragic truth that many teens can relate to. Bun, without realizing it, is in search of where she belongs. She happens upon the right group of people with equally tortured pasts and learns about family, love and loyalty. Bun states she has no goals, but once she achieves them, she realizes what she wanted all along.

As I read Bun's story, I was reminded of many of my own students. Some have difficult living situations, others have difficulties with social communication just like Bun. Many teens seek approval from their parents, like a few characters in this novel, and I feel young adult readers can relate to them. So now that I've read this great book, all that's left is to eat a great meal. I'm sure, since my mom will read this, I'll have one coming soon!

Heather Smith is also author of Angus all Aglow, a picture book about a boy who loves a sparkly necklace, but is bullied at school because of it. This story teaches kindness and compassion. Angus learns having one great friend to stand up for you and have your back is all anyone really needs.


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