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.

Witness

Vermont, 1924

i did first meet sara chickering
when i had comings here last year
to be a fresh-air girl in vermont.

pretty quick daddy did have comings after me.
sara chickering made two rooms to be for us
in her big farmhouse
with her dog jerry.
                                               esther hirsh, age 6

willie said:
at the klan meeting last night
the dragons talked about lighting you
and your daddy up
to get them some warmth on a cold day.
you’d be cheap fuel, they said
i turned my back on willie pettibone and walked out of school
without my coat
without my hat
i didn’t feel the cold
i was that scorched
                                           leanora sutter, age 12

they say maple sugar
is becoming as old-fashioned
as the paisley shawl,
but to see esther hirsh suck on a lump,

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her face star-blissed with
sweet delight,
i think that old-time maple,
it’s still all right.
                                 sara chickering, farmer, age 42

we have anti-lynching laws on the books.
but that isn’t why necks
are less often
swinging in nooses.

it is the people
saying no.
                            reynard alexander, age 48

Why were Esther and her father targeted?

Why Leanora?

Why did the adults change their attitudes?

Do people today act that way?

Read Karen Hesse’s book, Witness, to find out.