Tundra Books, 2010
Twelve-year-old Ambrose is a glass-half-full kind of guy. A self-described “friendless nerd,” he moves from place to place every couple of years with his overprotective mother, Irene. When some bullies at his new school almost kill him by slipping a peanut into his sandwich — even though they know he has a deathly allergy — Ambrose is philosophical. Irene, however, is not and decides that Ambrose will be home-schooled.
Alone in the evenings when Irene goes to work, Ambrose pesters Cosmo, the twenty-five-year-old son of the Greek landlords who live upstairs. Cosmo has just been released from jail for breaking and entering to support a drug habit. Quite by accident, Ambrose discovers that they share a love of Scrabble and coerces Cosmo into taking him to the West Side Scrabble Club, where Cosmo falls for Amanda, the club director. Posing as Ambrose’s Big Brother to impress her, Cosmo is motivated to take Ambrose to the weekly meetings and to give him lessons in self-defense. Cosmo, Amanda, and Ambrose soon form an unlikely alliance and, for the first time in his life, Ambrose blossoms. The characters at the Scrabble Club come to embrace Ambrose for who he is and for their shared love of words. There’s only one problem: Irene has no idea what Ambrose is up to.
From Tundra Books website
Man, don’t you love when you pick up a book to read and about three sentence in you’re like, “This rocks!”. Yeah, that’s how it was for me and Word Nerd by Susin Nielsen.
Ambrose, and all of the characters, are wonderfully quirky, but not so much that they aren’t believable. All of us, regardless of our age, know or have known an Ambrose (some of us have been an Ambrose). Awkward, geeky, no social skills yet blissfully unaware most of the time. He was just such a great character to read about and get to know, from his scrabble loving ways to his purple pants and hand made hat.
The friendship that blossoms between Ambrose and Cosmo is so unlikely, yet makes perfect sense at the same time. Kinda like when someone dares you to eat some food combination that should be gross but is totally delicious.
Nielsen has written episodes of the popular Canadian TV series Degrassi Junior High and also four Degrassi books (there are Degrassi books? MUST FIND!), so she is well versed and well practiced in writing about youngsters. And it shows in her writing. Everything described, no matter how weird, is believable.
There are messages in Word Nerd but they don’t seem forced. From family love, to getting over our fears after losing someone, to realizing that no matter how weird you are, there’s a place where you fit in, this is just a warm and funny and fuzzy book. And I can’t wait to read more from this author.