||A Review of: Missing Matthew
by Heather Birrell
In Missing Matthew, Kristyn Dunnion has created a world that is
truly kid-centred. Replete with all the whimsy, confusion, kindness
and cruelty childhood entails, this novel is particularly notable
for its wonderful depiction of the world of play. Its narrator
Winifred (Freddie) Zoron, aka Rebel F, decides it is up to her and
her best friend Weasel Peterson, aka Rebel Leader, and her sister
Jelly, aka Rebel J, to scour the small town of Rockwell searching
for their classmate, Matthew, when he doesn't show up at school one
day. Together, the Rebel Rescue Squad eventually stumble upon
Matthew hiding in an abandoned root cellar. From this point the
novel becomes less about a dangerous stranger than the more intimate
and difficult-to-decipher ties between familiar adults.
Freddie's voice is full of energy and spunk-even when she's blue
she finds great ways to express herself, dubbing her favourite
leftover meal the Second Supper Sandwich. Weasel too has a flair
for creative expression-Freddie's brother becomes "Evil Swamp
Bag" when he tries to thwart the Rebel Rescue Squad's plans.
Dunnion has divided her text into short snappy chapters, with such
titles as "Bossy", "Itchy Sheets", and "Sour
Gum Blues", each a new installment in Freddie's adventure.
Several of the chapters take as their inspiration a writing project
Freddie has been asked to revise for her teacher, Miss Mayler. As
she re-works her character study of Weasel, we learn more about the
Rebel Leader's friendship with the narrator-a compelling narrative
strategy that will be sure to grab readers accustomed to the
restrictions of school writing assignments.
However, Missing Matthew isn't all bells and whistles. The denouement
of the story leads us into very fraught emotional territory, when
Freddie discovers that Matthew's mother is not missing, as he
proclaims, but instead died mere months earlier. This leads to
several further revelations and some very honest discussion about
the nature of death and grieving-for both kids and grown-ups.
Missing Matthew is a story with heart, verve and momentum, told
with humour and sparkle.