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Two Weeks with the Queen


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This isn't at all the carefree story implied by the title and cover artwork--terminal cancer, AIDS, gay-bashing and death are treated tenderly here, in appropriate middle-reader fashion. Colin Mudford, an Australian boy, suspects that his parents favor his younger brother, Luke. When Luke collapses suddenly and is hospitalized, Colin wistfully imagines he has a malady of his own. Yet upon hearing that Luke will die of cancer, Colin sets out to find a doctor to cure him. Sent to live with relatives in England, Colin first tries soliciting the Queen's help, then approaches hospital physicians. He eventually meets Ted, a homosexual whose lover is dying of AIDS. Colin and Ted support one another through a difficult time (including Ted's assault by homophobic thugs), which enables Colin to shed his self-centered ways and allow a brave, resourceful and loving person to emerge. Gleitzman's liberal sprinkling of humor prevents the novel from becoming too dark. While the progression is slow at first, and several Australian expressions (``sooky,'' ``sticky-beaking'') may perplex readers, the material's topicality makes this a special book. Ages 8-12. (Mar.)

Gr 4-6-- After the sudden diagnosis of his younger brother's cancer, Colin is sent from his home in Australia to relatives in England. Once there, he tries to contact a number of venerable institutions--including the Queen--in order to obtain the best possible medical assistance for his brother. He fails in these efforts, but eventually receives some help and understanding from a homosexual couple--one of whom has AIDS. The novel ends with Colin fleeing his dreary relatives in England and flying back to Australia to be at his dying brother's bedside. Despite the gloomy subject matter, this book does have some funny moments, and Colin is incredibly feisty and brave--although not all of his actions are plausible. The British and Australian words are few and shouldn't deter readers. However, the plot's breakneck pace results in a lack of sufficient detail in many scenes. The effect is sketchy and undermines the more serious aspects of the story--it's like looking at the countryside from a fast-moving car. Readers won't be able to wholly sympathize with Colin's plight, or the life-and-death issues he faces, because they just haven't had a chance to know him very well. --Todd Morning, Schaumburg Township Public Library, IL

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