Sometimes you start reading a book and fall in love by page two. That’s what happened when I tore through Carla Gunn’s novel Amphibian, published by Coach House. The book’s narrator, nine-year-old Phin Walsh, is an encyclopedic pint-sized worrier, addicted to the “Green Channel”’s 24-7 coverage of environmental destruction. But instead of running around outside and enjoying the world he so wants to save, Phin concocts elaborate schemes like saving the classroom’s frog, Cuddles, and writing victim impact statements for endangered wildlife. His anger spills out constantly, like a David Suzuki Mini-Me, and in very kid-like ways against some huge, adult-created messes. Although the loss of innocence is heartbreaking—-are kids allowed to run freely and muck around these days?—-Amphibian is also hilarious, and contains some of the best and freshest swears I’ve read in a long time.
This is the first novel for Fredericton’s Gunn, and it’s a sparkling, memorable debut. She’s reading, along with Stephanie Domet, on Thursday, April 30 at Frog Hollow Books, 7pm.