Boys of Blur
Author: N. D. Wilson
Published: April 8, 2014 by Random House
Ricki’s Summary and Review: 12-year-old Charlie Reynolds’ family travels to town of Taper to attend the funeral of a beloved football coach. When Charlie’s stepfather is given the opportunity to coach the town’s football team, Charlie is not thrilled to learn that they will be living in this creepy town filled with ancient stories of runaway slaves, native tribes, and monsters that rise organically from the murky swamps. He tries to fit into this mysterious place, where boys chase rabbits through burning sugarcane and everything seems to revolve around football. As he comes to learn about this town of secrets, Charlie wonders if he has the courage to uncover the mysteries that surround him.
Set deep in the heart of the Florida Everglades, this text is sure to grip readers with its muck, swords, blood, and gore. Wilson integrates complex allusions to Beowulf, which will compel readers to uncover all of the parallels with the classic legend. The beautifully complex language of this fast-paced story inspires close readings while also teaching readers lessons about evilness, heroism, and family.
Kellee’s Review: What I found most intriguing about this book is that Wilson was able to allude to Beowulf in a middle grade book without completely scaring away the reader. Although I have read in multiple reviews that this book will grab reluctant readers’ attention, I think that some of the allusions are hard to grasp without prior knowledge, so reluctant readers may need some assistance understanding thus making the book a great read aloud as it will grab attention and start deep discussion (see Tools for Navigation). In addition to the allusions, there are opportunities to discuss hero’s quest, abuse, and loyalty.
You will also find some beautiful writing in this novel. Wilson has a way with words that made this novel lyrical yet easy to read. From the very first line: “When the sugarcane’s burning and the rabbits are running, look for the boys who are quicker than flame.” I was impressed with how literary the novel was.
Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: There are obvious parallels between this novel and the legend of Beowulf, and pairing these two texts for discussion would prove very rewarding. Perhaps, teachers could use this Boys of Blur in conjunction with Gareth Hinds’ graphic novel of Beowulf. Then, the class could compare and contrast both the story lines and the differing formats authors might employ to convey a story and message.
Discussion Questions: How is Charlie characterized? Do you find him to be a strong character?; What role does Cotton play in the story?; What role does Charlie’s father play in the story? Can he be forgiven?; How does the author use language effectively?
We Flagged: “‘Yes,’ Mrs. Wisdom said, ‘you are. You’re made of tiny spinning bits as fast as light. But those bits aren’t all of you. They fly off. They get lost, and new ones come on and join the swirling Charlie-shaped dance that is your body. And dwelling in that dance, woven through every racing bit, heating it all with life and guiding it, there is a fire, a soul—you. It takes a dream to see something like that, something closer to the way things really are” (110).
Read This If You Loved: Beowulf by Unknown, 100 Cupboards by N. D. Wilson, Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli, Holes by Louis Sachar, Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee, Raining Sardines by Enrique Flores-Galbis