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Thurman, Mark.

Toronto, New Canada Publications, c1986. 24pp, paper, ISBN 0-920053-96-3 (cloth) $10.95, 0-920053-94-7 (paper) $4.95. (Two Pals on an Adventure #2). Distributed by NC Press. CIP

K-Grade 3
Reviewed by Fran Newman

Volume 15 Number 2
1987 March

This is number five in the series of Douglas the Elephant and Albert Alligator books, a set that is familiar to a lot of Canadian kids. So, it was with anticipation that I opened it. It begins with the duo signing on to work as a waiter and a dishwasher on the Deluxe Transcontinental Express Train which has twelve dining cars and is travelling to the coast:

All does not go well on this newest adventure, since the workload is horrendous, and the bosses are tyrants. Douglas shrinks under Mrs. Rhododendron's comments of "Clumsy Clod. Pick that up! Move it!" Albert endures Mr. Olaf Ostrich's "Shape up or Ship Out, Dim Wit!" Douglas takes the derogatory comments more to heart and Albert becomes very concerned. Luckily, they have an expert on board. Dr. Zighound Froid the Fourth, a doctor of psychology, gives Douglas and the readers a series of exercises (seeing shapes, measuring, comparing), which proves to Douglas that he is fine. The story ends with the two bosses arguing over the meaning of the cards and using the dreadful comments to bait each other.

I needed help evaluating this one, so I asked the opinion of a kindergarten teacher, a grade 1-2 teacher, and a grade 3 staff member. All read, the book to their classes. All three expressed reservations. I would like to quote the grade 1-2 teacher: "The children enjoyed the book, especially looking at the cards. I liked the main thought of the story. I didn't like the name-calling. I try to discourage that in my classroom." The kindergarten teacher agreed. The grade 3 teacher supported that, and added that she found the story "disjointed."

AH the children laughed at the title, and at the first few items of name-calling, but did not respond as the taunts went on. I think I know why Thurman wrote the book: to show children that they are not alone in being called these names. But are we to assume that the answer lies in being psychoanalyzed? That is a bit broad, I know. Thurman is showing by his storyline that one need not accept the negative comments, that one is, and will remain, normal throughout. What my colleagues and I are not sure of, is the effectiveness of his method. My recommendation would be that interested persons read it for themselves. The illustrations merit a look-through, especially the one where Douglas is surrounded by piles of very threatening dirty dishes. It hits home at some real dread in all of us.

Fran Newman, Murray Centennial P.S., Trenton, Ont.
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