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Gordon, Donald R.

Illustrated by Michael Manson. Kitchener (Ont.), McBain Publications, c1984. 63pp, paper, $6.95, ISBN 0-9691607-5-5. Includes 1 audiocassette, $7.95. Distributed by McBain Publications, 70 Otonabee Drive, Kitchener, Ont.,N2C 1L6.CIP

Grades 4-7
Reviewed by Patrick Dunn

Volume 14 Number 3
1986 May

The Rock Candy Bandits is volume one in a series entitled The Prosperian Papers and this particular work has to do with the so-called "rock candy-vinegar trade" that exists between Prosperity and its neighbour, Asperity. Prosperians, it seems, have discovered how tasty vinegar is on french fries, their national dish, while Asperians, for their part, have realized that rock candies enable employees at the Great Vinegar Works, their national industry, to overcome the puckers. This mutually beneficial economic exchange involves the delivery, each Monday, of hand-picked rock candies across the Grungeon Desert to Woe, the capital of Asperity, and the return, on Thursday, of bottles of vinegar to Euphoria, Prosperity's capital. The Royal Prosperian Flying Desert Corp is charged with ensuring that despite sandstorms, bandits, and sand fleas, the shipments always arrive safely. This adventure involves the Desert Corp Freight Escort Team when they are halfway between Euphoria and Woe. Stopping to consult the Oracle, Colonel Elmer Oddley and Sergeant Michael leave Sergeant Pat and Sobersides, the most elegant camel in the Camel Corp, to guard the shipment. When they return, they discover, to their dismay, that their companions and the priceless shipment have been carried off by Moustapha and his Rock Candy Bandits. The rest of the tale describes their rescue from Fort Mischief, the bandit's lair.

Overall, the series seems to be a rather ambitious and interesting one. Most of the names are marvellously evocative in an almost Dickensian fashion, (Zachariah Wince, manager of the Great Vinegar Works; Antipodes, head Demon; Phineas T. Quackley. PhD, Oracle), their assorted pedigrees hilariously inventive. Unfortunately, the plot in this first episode is terribly thin, far too contrived, and overly predictable. One trusts that this lack of sufficient dramatic tension will be resolved in future offerings. However, Michael Mansor's illustrations are simply superb. For the most part they consist of line drawings highlighted with solid colours (reds, blues, magentas, and purples) thai capture with tremendous economy all the zaniness, all the comic pretension that is part and parcel of the individual personalities inhabiting this imaginary land. Finally, an audiocassettc, narrated by the author with quite some skill and humorous expression, is available separately or shrink-wrapped with the book. Probably most appropriate for home use, although some elementary school teachers might well find it a stimulating model for creative writing or theatre arts classes.

Patrick Dunn. University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C.
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