Book Review – Amphibian – Carla Gunn



  •    Book: Amphibian
  •    Author: Carla Gunn
  •    Genre: Fiction
  •    Year of Release: 2009
  •    Read 216-page paperback edition in April 2015.

Book Description:

Phineas is a very special nine year old.  He has an amazingly complex mind, and a rare gift for caring about the world and creatures around him.  He has vast knowledge about environmental issues, and wants to make the world a better place.  He also has the usual troubles of a young person in the modern age, with bullies on the playground and recently separated parents who may divorce.  However, when a White’s Tree Frog enters the classroom aquarium as a pet, his inner defences for this loveable animal kick in, and he begins an extensive plan to free the frog and return him to his proper habitat. Along the way, he also learns a few lessons about living.

Book Review:

This was a fantastic novel by Canadian author Carla Gunn.  Packed with a lot of themes and ideas, including environmental issues, bullying at school, how to provide quality care and interact with unique children, single parenting issues, and more, Gunn did a great job of bringing these various topics together in a short period of time.  Gunn also does a wonderful job bringing us into the mind of a nine year old narrator, and it is truly a joy to see the world through Phineas’ eyes.  We can also relate and sympathize with people like Phineas’ mother, who encounters a lot of stress and difficulty trying to truly understand her son.

A couple of small complaints I had in the novel.  One was that the therapist who sees Phineas seems completely ludicrous and acts in ways that are caricaturist and even ridiculous at times.  For example, telling a child he can never make a difference; is this something we tell children in this day and age?  It seemed unbelievable for the time period.  Another small complaint was that in order to create the tension required, the author made the mother not understand and not listen at various times.  Although this does happen with parents and children sometimes, this disconnect seemed to be ratcheted up to such a degree that it became almost a little bit too fake.

That all being said, these characters were still enjoyable, particularly Phineas, who as the nine year old was our child hero.  As a nine year old, the reader was able to laugh out loud at some of his observations on the world, on humans, on his mother, and on his school.  It’s always fun to think about what kids are processing in their minds, and with this book we got to go inside and see!

Overall, this was a fun, lively novel, and definitely one worth reading.

Overall: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars.