A Novel

eBook - 2009
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9 year old Phineas has an encyclopedic knowledge of the natural world and he's worried sick about what humans are doing to this planet. So, when a White's tree frog ends up in the classroom aquarim, it is the last staw, he and his friend Bird are spurred to action.
Publisher: Toronto : Coach House Books, ©2009.
Edition: 1st ed.
Characteristics: 1 online resource (212 pages)


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brianreynolds Dec 27, 2012

What makes Phineas Walsh, at the age of nine, heroic is mainly naiveté and good-fortune. His creator, Carla Gunn, exercises a deft hand in Amphibian in balancing, on the one hand, the insight into environmental problems that children see much more clearly than adults with, on the other hand, a seductive dose of extraordinary precociousness that captivates her reader and illustrates perfectly the imbalance of power that exists in environmental conflicts. Might, it seems, has always trumped right. No matter how “right” an articulate nine-year-old might be, the deck is stacked against him. The well-meaning educators, parents and physicians of the novel appear as nefarious as the criminals in government and industry that profit from eco-disaster. But in the end Phin tames his dragons. In the end he is able, plausible or not, to make his voice heard above their indifference, their frustration and anger. At the age of nine he has the courage to keep trying when the outcome looks impossible. As the son of concerned and intelligent parents, he has the good luck of dealing with people who are capable of eventually listening to reason. Amphibian is, at once, compelling and uplifting. I found it hard not to take it personally, not to get angry and worried. A different conclusion surely must have tempted the author, yet I slept better last night with the one she gave us.

Dec 31, 2011

I absolutely LOVE this novel. Reading it for the second time was every bit as enjoyable as the first. Why the heck it has failed to get any recognition in the Canadian literary scene is beyond me. Critics have compared it to "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time", and I'd agree.

The protagonist of the novel is 9-year-old Phineas William Walsh - a boy whose encyclopedic knowledge of environmental issues, and his resulting anxiety over the plight of Earth's animal kingdom, has the adults around him very worried. In fact, they're baffled: only his grandmother seems to understand Phin's refusal to accept that 'everything is going to be okay'. In addition to his eco-anxiety, Phin is dealing with a school bully, his parents' separation, and the recent death of his grandfather . It's no wonder that when his teacher (an oblivious drone) purchases an Australian White's tree frog as a "class pet", Phin's conscience spurs him to action.

If you love to read books in which you get to spend time inside the mind of a fascinating, unique protagonist - if you wonder why it is that our natural compassion towards animals vanishes when we reach adulthood - if you want to be inspired by a kid who refuses to be soothed by the lies we all tell ourselves - then I highly recommend this wonderful first novel by Canadian Carla Gunn.

melissapowl Apr 10, 2010

At first I thought this book should be in the children's section but then I realized that it really is an adult book. Adults need to read it to understand how NOT to deal with children's anxiety over the state of our planet. Wonderful, eye-opening--read it!

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melissapowl Mar 16, 2011


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