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Rules of the Universe by Austin W. Hale

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My Contract with Henry, Rules of the Universe by Austin W. Hale

Review: Rules of the Universe by Austin W. Hale 

ISBN: 978-0-8234-1811-4 


The following review appeared in the The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, one of the nation's leading children's book review journals for school and public librarians. This review appeared January 2008.

It’s understandable that thirteen-year-old Austin has been throwing himself into his science experiments in an attempt to avoid facing the world: he is hiding from the looming deaths of both his adored grandfather and his beloved dog. A curious gift from his grandfather, meant to be the study of a new series of experiments, shakes up Austin’s life in unimaginable ways, since the mysterious thing gives him the power to alter the universe around him. Though at first small effects such as fish evolving overnight or plants with wild growth spurts lead Austin to believe he can manage the object’s actions, he quickly realizes he is in way over his head when his dog becomes a puppy, his friends are transformed into doddering old men, and his sister’s teen angst gives way to childish enthusiasm as she loses three years. Although he should be much more wary of this powerful new ability and the havoc he is wreaking, he cannot see past his obsession with saving his grandfather, even against the old man’s express wishes. The captivating blend of scientific research and magic is effectively balanced against the stark realism of a boy facing his first significant losses; the overall tone is one of cautious optimism, both about the potential positive impacts of this magical object and Austin’s own ability to recover. The combination of genres is a quirky one, but as several humorous and thoughtful passages would be ideal booktalking selections, there should be little trouble in conjuring an audience. AS

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