Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978



Fall 2015 Fiction
Ages: 8 - 12 yrs.
Author: Roddy Doyle
Illustrator: Emily hughes
ISBN: Brilliant
Hardcover Price: $16.95

At first, Gloria and her brother Raymond are happy when their Uncle Ben has to come to stay with them, even though it happens because Uncle Ben's business is in trouble. But soon, they notice that Uncle Ben is different-everyone is. Their parents try to laugh, but the laughter doesn't sound real anymore. Then, one night when they are eavesdropping on the grownups, Gloria and Raymond overhear their granny warn of the Black Dog of Depression overtaking Dublin, climbing on the backs of people like Uncle Ben and refusing to let go. She says the Black Dog has stolen Dublin's funny bone, so that people can't shake the Dog off with a good laugh anymore. Gloria and Raymond aren't entirely sure what the Black Dog is, or where he might be keeping the funny bone, but they know they have to get it back. They set off on a wild chase through Dublin, gathering other children as they go. Each new child has a mother, or a father, or a cousin plagued with the Black Dog, and a fresh reason to retrieve Dublin's funny bone before it is lost forever. But when the children do face the Black Dog, they find that they will need a special tool to ward off the power of the Depression.

Doyle's new novel, by turns adventurous and insightful, offers young readers a way to understand the current economic crisis and the emotional hardships that inevitably affect them and the adults in their lives. Even more attractively, it envisions a role for young people in helping their families through crisis. The dialogue is lively, and the secondary characters of the other children are vividly drawn and engaging (I was particularly drawn to Ernie, who may or may not be a child vampire). The long night of chasing the Black Dog does drag on a bit, and the children's strategy of shouting "Brilliant" (Dublin's ultimate multi-purpose defiant joke) gets slightly overused. Nevertheless, if the ultimate lesson is that humor can fend off depression, Brilliant provides plenty of the necessary medicine, delivered with warmth and love.

Naomi Lesley   ©2015 Parents' Choice
Naomi Lesley taught middle and high school English for six years. She is currently in a doctoral program at the George Washington University, focusing on American young adult literature.

Look for this product at:
Abrams Books for Young Readers

Share This