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A Novel by Scott Randall

An Unruly Little Animal

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An Unruly Little Animal

An Unruly Little Animal unfolds on the most stressful of February days for young worrier Darby Tamm. In the morning, the fifth grader must deliver a pair-presentation with classmate Jennie Phelps-Christianson, and in the afternoon, he must endure a class visit and career-talk on mechanical engineering from his recently estranged father. Additionally, other stressors complicate his day: a) Darby’s original fifth grade teacher Mr. Henderson, who had a car-accident-of-unknown-origins back in November, has died that night before, b) the class’s substitute teacher Monsieur Substitute has been having an affair with his classmate Jennie’s mother Vice Principal Phelps-Christianson, a secret Darby shares with former-friends-turned-dangers Alexander and Them and a secret he must hide from Jennie, and c) throughout the day, Alexander and Them threaten to beat the snot-stuffing-piss-puke out of him and threaten to expose the fact that Darby has stolen from his father’s collection of vintage pornography magazines. The complications confounding Darby intensify throughout his day, culminate in a classroom scuffle, and result in a better understanding of his mom, mechanical engineering, sex, and violence. 
Comic, circadian, and literary, the novel’s structure alternates between chapter and composition sections: single-day chapters that trace the increasing complications of Darby’s day are interspersed with composition sections that reflect and riff on Darby’s worried state of mind. Taken altogether, An Unruly Little Animal offers readers a poignant and humorous coming-of-age story.   

Critical Comment

“This is a delightful novel with a memorable hero; it’s funny, poignant, and inventive, and I enjoyed it enormously. Scott Randall is a writer to watch.”


An Unruly Little Animal is a dazzling, heart-throttling tour de force. Think of David Foster Wallace channeling Seymour Glass or Nicholson Baker stepping into the imaginative terrain of Judy Blume. Scott Randall captures the neuroses of childhood with a tender fastidiousness.”



"Much of the absurdity comes from the reverence afforded to certain topics. This is perhaps most evident, and hilarious, in a chapter that describes the vintage pornography Darby steals from his father. Randall makes full, diverse, and consistent use of humour – both subtle and overt, dark, witty, satirical, cringe, observational, and surreal – while maintaining respect and sensitivity for the topics and characters he handles."




Author Scott Randall

Randall author

Author Biography

Scott Randall’s An Unruly Little Animal grew out of a short story entitled 'The Gifted Class,' which was first published by The Dalhousie Review and later selected by Lynn Coady, Heather O’Neill, and Neil Smith for inclusion in McClelland & Stewart’s anthology Journey Prize Stories 20. While Randall worked on the novel, an excerpted chapter for the book, entitled 'The Arithmetic of Common Ground,' was selected by Zsuzsi Gartner, Yasuko Thanh, and Jessica Johnson for The Walrus / Whistler Writers Adventure Camp prize, and the chapter later appeared in The Walrus. In addition to selecting Randall’s 2015 story collection for the Ottawa Book Award, the city of Ottawa awarded a Creation grant for established literary artists for him to complete the manuscript of An Unruly Little Animal.

Scott Randall has previously published three collections: And To Say Hello (2014, DC Books), Character Actor (2008, Signature Editions), and Last Chance to Renew (2006, Signature Editions). His most recent collection won the 2015 Ottawa Book Award for fiction; two of his stories have been included in the Journey Prize anthologies (volumes 18 and 20); and he has published stories in periodicals such as The Malahat Review, Prairie Fire, The New Quarterly, The Antigonish Review, Grain, and Ottawa Magazine. He holds MA, MFA, and PhD degrees in Literature and Creative Writing and has taught writing at Seneca College, York University, Concordia University, and Algonquin College.  


49th Shelf

An Unruly Little Animal, Scott Randall, 280 pp., 5.5 x 8.5, Novel, September, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-927599-60-0 (paper) . . . $21.95

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