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Write On Ottawa: What if kids had it their way?

By Jennifer Larocque on March 30, 2015


So, we all think being a kid is easy.  Have you ever thought back to the times you felt hopeless in a world ruled by oh-so-rational adults?  This is a BIG issue to live through in middle school!  Not only are you dealing with all sorts of social pressures, your parents or the adults in your life just make this task a little more tedious.

When I was in middle school, I thought the Prime Minister’s right-hand person should be a teenager so kids’ wants and needs would be considered and maybe the seriousness of world politics would be enlightened.

Kids getting their way.  This is just what Ottawa-based author Kate Jaimet delivers in Dunces Rock, the sequel to Dunces Anonymous, two novels written for youth in grades four to six.  (Click here for a video trailer of Dunces Rock).

To fully get acquainted with her delightful, individualistic and creative characters Josh Johnson, Magnolia Montcrieff, Wang Xiu and Wilmot Binkle (the latter being the last member to join the Dunces at the end of the first novel and the star of the second), I read both books.

What is Dunces Anonymous?

anonymousRight at the onset of the book, readers are quickly immersed into Josh’s (protagonist) feeling of desperation.  Written in the third person, the reader is presented with a seemingly insurmountable problem: His Type-A personality mother wants him to run for President of his class.  Josh dreads having to run in the election and has no ambition to do so, but how can he get out of it?

Minor set back: there is only one other candidate in the running, Stacey Hogarth (his arch nemesis), who is not loved by her peers.  So, for Josh to purposely campaign as the worst candidate in the hopes of loosing the election is also a challenge (because he can’t just disregard his mother’s excitement and not run at all).

One day, he has the brilliant idea to create a club, of which he is president: Dunces Anonymous. “A Club for Kids who aren’t as Good at Stuff as their Parents Think they Should Be.”

Low and behold, two of his classmates are interested in being part of the club: Magnolia and Wang. Why?  They both have issues they need to resolve with their eager parents.  Magnolia absolutely does not want to be Juliet in the school play (but it was her mother’s longstanding childhood dream) and Wang does not want to compete in the chess club tournaments (but his father is convinced that it’s the optimal solution for him to improve his marks at school).  Together, the Dunces think up cunning plans to get their way.  Of course, minor set backs and the arch nemesis create a few roadblocks, which makes for an innocent and comedic storyline.

One of the Club’s cunning plans introduces us to Wilmot Binkle.  He is the victim of his father’s overprotection and strict adherence to chess tournament rules.  This makes him a prime candidate for Dunces Anonymous, and so the tone is set for the sequel.

Dunces Rock is a load of Good Vibrations!

Kate Jaimet

Kate Jaimet

Wilmot Binkle, like Wang in the first novel, is forced to be part of the chess club.  But his true passion lies in music, and this love is ignited when he randomly meets Headcase, a goodhearted teenager, a dude that has sold his soul to rock n’roll.

Headcase gives Wilmot the old guitar he was about to trash.  Wilmot plans to register to the school’s Music and Drama program to learn how to play his new guitar, but quickly learns that the program has been cancelled for the year and replaced by a school hockey team.

What’s he going to do? He reaches out to those who can actually do something about adults veering in the wrong direction: he joins Dunces Anonymous.

Friendship.  Innocence.  Heart.

Throughout the sequel, Dunces Rock, we really get to know Josh.  Quirky at best, yes, but with a heart of gold.  He takes more than a few punches for the team and his true personality shines through the responsibilities and challenges he takes on to help Wilmot and the club get closer and closer to their objective.

While aimed at a middle school audience, adult readers will find themselves smiling as they reads through the trials and tribulations of Jaimet’s lovable kids. She includes a few treats for us adults when she uses popular hit song titles in Headcase’s lingo that only we will get.

Kate Jaimet is a freelance writer and author. Keep your eyes and ears open: She might just have another challenge in mind for the Dunces coming our way in the near future.