Book - 2009 | First edition
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Shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book (Canada and Caribbean region)
Nine-year-old Phineas William Walsh has an encyclopedic knowledge of the natural world. He knows that if you wet a dog's food with your saliva and he refuses to eat it then he's top dog, and he knows that dolphins can sleep half a brain at a time. What he doesn't know, though, is why his grandfather died, or why waste-of-flesh Lyle always picks on him. Or why his parents can't live together - after all, when other mate-for-life animals have a fight, it's not like one of them just packshis bags and leaves the country. To make it to-infinity worse, he's worried sick about what humans are doing to the planet, and his mother is worried sick about him. But shouldn't everyone be losing sleep over the fact that a quarter of all Earth's mammals are on the Red List of Threatened Species? So, when a White's tree frog ends up in an aquarium in his fourth-grade classroom, it's the last straw, and he and his best friend, Bird, are spurred to action. 'Carla Gunn's prose crackleswith energy in this illuminating, heart-gripping novel. A hilarious, brilliant, loveable, exasperating child, Phin and his mesmerizing voice need listening to. The powerful, authentic narrator brings to mind TheCurious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time , but Gunn's an original, and draws us deeply into Phin's many and varied worlds. A compassionate tale balancing light and dark, this is a must-read book.' - Sheree Fitch, author of Kiss the Joy As It Flies 'I'm thrilled to promoteAmphibian as our number one summer reading suggestion to customers of all ages, many of whom have returned to say how much theyenjoyed it. It really has all the elements of a classic in the making. In nine-year-old Phineas Walsh, Carla Gunn has created a narrator that is perceptive, hilarious and frustrating, as he grapples with humanity's seeming indifference to the rapid destruction of our animals and our planet. The issues are urgent, yet the author maintains a light tone throughout that isbreathtakingly delightful, heartfelt and ultimately hopeful. It's fresh, timely and very hard to find fault with. I was thrilledto read it and shed light on this gem of a book that might otherwise get lost in the shuffle. It's what independent bookselling is all about.' - Andrew Peck, Singing Pebble Books, Ottawa
Publisher: Toronto : Coach House Books, c2009
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9781552452141
Branch Call Number: FIC
Characteristics: 212 pages ; 21 cm


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brianreynolds Dec 27, 2012

What makes Phineas Walsh, at the age of nine, heroic is mainly naiveté and good-fortune. His creator, Carla Gunn, exercises a deft hand in Amphibian in balancing, on the one hand, the insight into environmental problems that children see much more clearly than adults with, on the other hand, a seductive dose of extraordinary precociousness that captivates her reader and illustrates perfectly the imbalance of power that exists in environmental conflicts. Might, it seems, has always trumped right. No matter how “right” an articulate nine-year-old might be, the deck is stacked against him. The well-meaning educators, parents and physicians of the novel appear as nefarious as the criminals in government and industry that profit from eco-disaster. But in the end Phin tames his dragons. In the end he is able, plausible or not, to make his voice heard above their indifference, their frustration and anger. At the age of nine he has the courage to keep trying when the outcome looks impossible. As the son of concerned and intelligent parents, he has the good luck of dealing with people who are capable of eventually listening to reason. Amphibian is, at once, compelling and uplifting. I found it hard not to take it personally, not to get angry and worried. A different conclusion surely must have tempted the author, yet I slept better last night with the one she gave us.

Dec 31, 2011

I absolutely LOVE this novel. Reading it for the second time was every bit as enjoyable as the first. Why the heck it has failed to get any recognition in the Canadian literary scene is beyond me. Critics have compared it to "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time", and I'd agree.

The protagonist of the novel is 9-year-old Phineas William Walsh - a boy whose encyclopedic knowledge of environmental issues, and his resulting anxiety over the plight of Earth's animal kingdom, has the adults around him very worried. In fact, they're baffled: only his grandmother seems to understand Phin's refusal to accept that 'everything is going to be okay'. In addition to his eco-anxiety, Phin is dealing with a school bully, his parents' separation, and the recent death of his grandfather . It's no wonder that when his teacher (an oblivious drone) purchases an Australian White's tree frog as a "class pet", Phin's conscience spurs him to action.

If you love to read books in which you get to spend time inside the mind of a fascinating, unique protagonist - if you wonder why it is that our natural compassion towards animals vanishes when we reach adulthood - if you want to be inspired by a kid who refuses to be soothed by the lies we all tell ourselves - then I highly recommend this wonderful first novel by Canadian Carla Gunn.

melissapowl Apr 10, 2010

At first I thought this book should be in the children's section but then I realized that it really is an adult book. Adults need to read it to understand how NOT to deal with children's anxiety over the state of our planet. Wonderful, eye-opening--read it!

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melissapowl Mar 16, 2011


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