The Jigsaw Puzzle King – Gina McMurchy-Barber

Warren and his family have recently moved to a new town. He misses his friends and is nervous about starting over at a new school where he doesn’t know anyone. He spends a lot of time worrying about what others think of him. Warren enjoys playing soccer and ball hockey.

Warren’s twin brother, Bennie, doesn’t have any trouble making new friends. He doesn’t worry about what other people think of him. Bennie likes inventing games and loves peanut butter and pickles sandwiches.

Sometimes people who didn’t know Bennie thought he was weird. I liked to ease him into new situations slowly so we might avoid that.

Warren wishes he could only be responsible for himself but he also wants to protect his younger (by four minutes) brother. Bennie would never hurt anyone but sometimes he does and says things that embarrass Warren, like calling him Wart in public.

And then it came, the question someone always asked. “So anyway, what’s your brother got?”

Bennie has Down syndrome. Not everyone understands what that means and some people stare and say mean things about Bennie.

I absolutely adored Bennie. I also really liked Maya, a young spitfire who constantly stands up for what’s right, regardless of whether it’s the easy or difficult choice. I spent most of the novel waiting to be introduced to Owen and he did not disappoint. I’d love to read companion books that delve into both Maya and Owen’s backgrounds and tell me what happens in their lives after this novel ends.

I’m sure plenty of readers will be left hanging, not knowing the final result of the talent show. I assumed the honour would go to Owen, as well as Maya and Bennie, but it wasn’t actually confirmed. I would have liked to have been privy to Danny’s backstory as I’m certain I would have had more compassion for him had I known what had contributed to his behaviour.

I love novels that give me a glimpse inside the worlds of people whose experiences are different to my own. This story, through different characters’ responses to Warren and Bennie, highlights both what is helpful and what is harmful when interacting with those who are different from ourselves.

Although this book allowed me to see some of the joy and struggles of a family that includes a child with Down syndrome, its message is transferrable. Anyone who feels different for whatever reason could take hold of the hope infused in its pages.

Even though children are this book’s intended audience there are valuable lessons for adults as well, who may need a reminder to not waste their time and energy worrying about what others think of them. Learning this was a personal story for its author added weight to the authenticity I already felt reading about Warren’s often conflicting feelings towards his brother.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Dundurn Press for the opportunity to read this book. I’m interested in reading more books by this author.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Being yourself isn’t always easy.

When you’re new in school, all you want is to fit in. When eleven-year-old Warren and his family move to a new city, his twin brother, who has Down syndrome, attracts too much attention for Warren’s liking. Bennie’s different and doesn’t care about it. But while Bennie may be oblivious to those who are curious or uneasy with him, Warren notices every smirk, comment, and sideways glance.

Warren is weary of flip-flopping between trying to be just like everyone else and being the protective brother of a boy with special needs. Sometimes he thinks his life would be easier if he had no brother. But what he really needs is to stop worrying about what other people think. 

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