Me & Mr. Bell: A Novel, by Philip Roy | Book Review
Elizabeth Varadan | The Children’s Book Review | March 27, 2014
By Philip Roy
Age Range: 10-14
Paperback: 146 pages
Publisher: Cape Breton University Press (October 1, 2013)
What to Expect: Historical figures, small town life and farm life in 1908, new inventions, special talent, special challenges, triumph over difficulties
In 1908, ten-year-old Eddie MacDonald is wrestling with learning problems that today would be recognized as dyslexia. Spelling confuses him. Words elude him. Even though he’s smarter than average—he’s good at math and fascinated by scientific concepts—everyone around him has decided he’s slow to learn, since he can’t read or write.
His family’s farm is outside Baddeck, Nova Scotia, where the famous Alexander Graham Bell has a summer home. Bell is treated with awe in town, considered the world’s smartest man. By accident, Eddie encounters Mr. Bell while walking in the countryside, and they strike up a friendship. Mr. Bell is quick to realize Eddie is a thinker. He encourages him to persevere. He invites Eddie to his home, where he meets Helen Keller. She, too, inspires Eddie’s belief that he can master his challenges.
“Helen Keller’s touch was soft and gentle, but her determination to know was really hungry and powerful. I felt it. And I knew now that that’s what intelligence was ‑ the hunger that the mind has to know things.”
All of this is woven into a story that moves at an engrossing pace and is in no way didactic. Roy takes us into the head of a young boy who is curious about how things work, wants desperately to learn, but is frustrated and embarrassed by the written page. When his stubborn interest in “applied mathematics,” enables Eddie to prove his intelligence during an accident (no spoilers here), his family and and neighbors start to recognize his abilities.
The author captures the era of the early 20th century, when Ford’s Model T is about to change society and Bell is still working on his “Silver Dart” to prove manned flight is feasible. This is a wonderful read, chockfull of history, math, and science, without ever being dull.
This book will appeal to middle grade readers who like stories about inventions, airplanes, famous people, overcoming difficulties, and life in earlier times.
Add this book to your collection: Me & Mr. Bell: A Novel
For more information, visit: http://philiproy.ca
Me & Mr. Bell: A Novel was reviewed by Elizabeth Varadan.