Colin Fischer


From Colin Fischer’s notebook:

“Our neighbors once witnessed me take a metal mixing bowl and some household chemicals into the garage.  After hearing a loud bang, they called the police, assuming I was attempting to manufacture drugs…What the neighbors didn’t know and my father eventually confirmed for the police was the truth:  I was trying to work out the principles of explosive pulse propulsion in spacecraft for a science project.  The police laughed, although my father made me spend a month’s allowance to replace the bowl.”

Remember Encyclopedia Brown?  The ten-year-old boy detective?  I didn’t discover him until our grandson showed me one of the 28 Encyclopedia Brown books, and then Grandpa and I shared those stories.

Colin Fischer is 14 and a high school freshman.  Most of his classmates think he’s weird because he doesn’t think or react the way most kids do.  Colin can’t “read” facial expressions the way most of us do, so he keeps index cards with smiley and other faces to help him figure out whether someone is joking, or scared, or angry, or what.  Because he collects facts the way you might collect stamps or baseball cards, and because he’s curious about the ways other people behave, he finds out who shot off the gun at a birthday party.

This book is a window into the mind of a “different” kid.  There’s a bully, there are friends, and there are kids who become better friends.   The book ends with hints of trouble yet to come from the perpetrator of the crime, and I’d like to see how Colin’s conflict with his little brother turns out, but there isn’t a sequel–not yet…

Colin Fischer isn’t a quick read like the Encyclopedia Brown books. There’s one mystery (but several problems) solved in a full-length book for teen readers.  The book is a bonus if you like odd facts, like the swimming patterns of hammerhead sharks or what is the Kuleshov effect.

Surviving the Applewhites


“Jake hadn’t been more than two years old when he found how certain words affected people.  It had surprised him considerably, since his parents used those words at home all the time…”

Jake waited in the Applewhite’s porch with 13-year-old E.D. Applewhite while his grandfather, social worker, and the adult Applewhites discussed the terms of his placement (and, they hoped, education).Surviving the Applewhites
Jake pulled a cigarette out of his tee-shirt pocket and ignored E.D.’s information that all 16 acres of their place was smoke free.  When the adults came out of the house:

“The oldest of them, a wiry old man with white hair and a droopy white mustache…headed for the rocking chair in the corner of the porch.   On the way he snatched the cigarette out of Jake’s hand so fast Jake didn’t know what had happened till it was being ground out on the porch floor under the old man’s shoe…

The old man stretched out his hand toward Jake. ‘Zedediah Applewhite… How do you do?’

Jake looked at the wrinkled, spotted, knobby old hand.  He was not about to shake the hand that had snatched one of his last precious cigarettes.

But he didn’t have a choice.  The old man grabbed it and shook it in both of his, nearly crushing Jake’s fingers in an amazingly powerful grip…

When the old man let go, Jake shook his hand to make sure the blood could still get to the tips of his fingers.  Then he said a few of his favorite words, just loud enough to be sure they were heard.

Zedediah Applewhite didn’t so much as blink.  ‘You ought to spend a little time with Cordelia,’ he said.  ‘She’s taught my parrot the French for that.  Spanish, Italian, and German, too.’”                                          Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie Tolan.