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Children's Fiction General

The McGillicuddy Book of Personal Records

by (author) Colleen Sydor

Red Deer Press
Initial publish date
Jun 2010
Recommended Age
10 to 14
Recommended Grade
6 to 9
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2011
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2010
    List Price

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Nominated - Silver Birch Fiction Award, 2012

This is an extraordinary story about a 13-year-old boy named Lee who loves setting personal and odd records. He's obsessed by them in fact - from tracing the annual public marathon with his dog Santiago to bouncing a basketball in the school playground for 12 hours straight with no one around - but he's not interested in going public with them.

Along the way Lee collects famous quotes from all manner of famous people whose lives and words have encouraged him - and provided inspiration during trying times. In addition he sees himself as the director of the definitive movie about his life, focusing on the light and dark moments he experiences as he seeks a raison d'etre for his life.

Above all, he seeks to escape being ordinary, and when he's confronted with the greatest challenge of his young life - saving his pesky friend from certain death - his strength of character and purpose demonstrate that he is anything but ordinary.

About the author

Colleen Sydor was born and raised in Winnipeg, where she lives with her husband and three children, and works as a writer and floral designer. She brings quick wit and a lively sense of language to her books for young readers. Four of her books have won the McNally Robinson Book For Young People award. Sydor's children have always been grist for her writer's mill. She finds that as they grow in feet and inches, so her stories are lengthening as well.

Colleen Sydor's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"Sydor gives readers a strong cast of characters in this young adult novel. . . Throughout the novel, Sydor treats the book as a film, and so the writing is interspersed with directions such as "Fade to: interior of a boy's head. Roll camera" or "Cut back to Joe's bar. Zoom in on Gertrude's fingers cracking peanuts." This approach enables the author to present a variety of points of view and allows different scenes to occur simultaneously. Given most teens' interest in and understanding of the media, it is a technique which works well and will appeal to the intended audience. . . Colleen Sydor presents a novel filled with enthusiasm and inspiration, tempered with both sobering moments and comic relief. The characters and the dialogue ring true, and the various events push readers to an unexpected and exciting conclusion The plot and the characters will appeal to both boys and girls and will perhaps help them to realize that we are all, in our own unique ways, extraordinary.
-- CM Magazine

"The biggest challenge one faces in life is themselves. The McGillicuddy Book of Personal Records tells the tale of Lee McGillicuddy, a thirteen year old who drives himself to greatness by keeping and breaking his own personal records. But meeting challenges isn't always an easy triumph, and when the stakes of his friend's life are on the line, Lee must meet the challenge. The McGillicuddy Book of Personal Records is a fun and uplifting read for young readers."
-- The Midwest Book Review

Lee McGillicuddy is an ordinary thirteen-year-old boy who does not want to be ordinary.

He wants to be extraordinary, and to accomplish that, he becomes obsessed with setting personal records. He's not trying to make the official world-record books; rather he makes up his own record-breaking stunts and records them in a spiral notebook he hides under his bed. His attempts involve what you might expect: basketball bouncing, blocks long domino chains, and pogo-stick jumping. His efforts are never successful and do not add up to much, until the day Lee has the chance to save a friend's life after a freak accident. The inner resolve and perseverance he's gained from thankless hours of pursuing just-out-of-reach records give him the strength he needs to hang in there and be a hero.

Lee is an appealing character. Readers will sympathize with his yearning for mastery over mediocrity and will identify with his frustrations and misadventures. His unrelenting loneliness and sadness seem a lot like depression, but this aspect of his character, although briefly explored, is not fully developed, and it feels like a missed opportunity to engage readers. The secondary characters promise to be colorful and interesting as they are introduced but remain mostly one dimensional. The plot device of using cinematic directions to shift point of view is used inconsistently and ends up just being distracting. Nevertheless, Lee's story will appeal to the many middle school and younger high school readers who keep world-record books in constant demand at libraries and bookstores.
-Jane Harper.VOYA Magazine

"Sydor puts together a story that has momentum and staying power. The characters are great. . . In general this was a solid book that a young person would really enjoy and might find very inspiring. As mentioned before, this book is great at getting students interested in reading heavier novels, like The Old Man and the Sea."
-- Resource Links

Librarian Reviews

The McGillicuddy Book of Personal Records

Attaining a new personal record is about the only thing that can make Lee McGillicuddy feel talented. Even pesky neighbour Rhonda is good at something. All Lee’s got going for him are two mothers, three names and one dog, Santiago. Even a new friendship with star soccer player Slang isn’t enough to prevent Lee from drooping into depression, especially after he concludes how unspecial his personal records are. But when it’s up to him to hang on to the thread of Rhonda’s life — just about literally — Lee realizes his records may have made him into exactly what he’s meant to be.

Each chapter opens with a quote that is clearly relevant, ranging in subject from success to mothers to canines. Point of view shifts are marked with movie language (“And… cut to boy”), often bringing out some welcome humour. An excessive use of italics and slang detract from the writing, but not from the story. Lee’s character is defined by his choice of quotes and by his mood swings; in third person, his way of thinking is well-voiced. The cast of secondary characters multiplies slowly, allowing the primary characters their spotlights and taking the time to develop the minor characters more thoroughly. Even though the first half of the novel focuses more on Lee’s personal growth and interior development, his ups and downs with life move the story forward and set up the roots of his friendship with Rhonda. The movie motif makes a real-live cameo at the finish of the novel and leaves readers with the warm fuzzy feeling that not all personal records are futile.

Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Spring 2011. Volume 34 No. 2.

Other titles by Colleen Sydor