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Reviews: (by author)
Nixon, Joan Lowery. Laugh Till You Cry. New York: Yearling, 2004. ISBN 0-440-23774-2. $5.50. Ages 9-12. 99 pp.
Because his grandmother gets sick and he and his mother have to help take care of her, thirteen-year-old Cody is stuck in Texas. Cody loves his grandmother but he misses his friends back in California. In Texas he has to suffer being the new kid at school that no one likes. He cannot even count on family to be there for him. His cousin Hayden lives next door and is even in the same grade as Cody, but all Hayden and his friends do is pick on him and make everything worse. And no one in the family believes Cody when he says that Hayden is a bully.
Then Cody meets Officer Ramsey. Officer Ramsey befriends him and thinks that Cody is funny, even offering to pay Cody for his jokes so that he can use them in his stand-up comic act. Cody begins to think that life is Texas is not so bad until someone calls in a bomb threat at school and Cody is the prime suspect. Now it is up to Cody, with the help of his new friend, Officer Ramsey, to clear his name.
One of the last books published by four time Edgar Award winner Joan Lowery Nixon, this mystery is very intriguing and addresses a very real concern about violence and terrorist threats in American schools. The police and the school administration in the book take the threats seriously as all authority figures should in real life.
Readers will be anxious to join Cody in his detective work to find out who the real culprit of the bomb threat is, and will sympathize with Cody as he deals with the injustice of being wrongly accused.
In addition to the mystery and the serious issue of bomb threats, Nixon also portrays other relatable issues, such as feeling lonely and isolated as the new kid in school, and peer pressure.
Overall, the book is well written, and while it is rather simplistic, it is enjoyable and gives readers the chance—with many clues that are easy to pick up—to be able to solve the mystery for themselves, thereby allowing the reader to feel a sense of success and accomplishment by engaging their analytical and critical thinking skills.
Joyce Ho, June 2007