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James, Janet Craig.

Moonbeam (Ont.). Penumbra Press, 1986. 101pp, paper, $7.95, ISBN 0-920806-32-5. No CIP

Grades 4-7
Reviewed by Joan M. Payzant

Volume 15 Number 4
1987 July

Calling all teachers and librarians who enjoy reading to their classes. This little book is an adventure story, masterfully told, which will keep your students on the edge of their seats, while at the same time painlessly slipping them a large dollop of history. If you don't want to read it to them, recommend that they read it themselves, and I guarantee they will thoroughly enjoy it.

Jeremy Gates came to Halifax with his parents, among the first settlers. This is the story of Jeremy's adventures on land and at sea, and his meeting with a great variety of characters, all finely drawn and individually identifiable. The magic key of the title refers to being able to read and write a hard-to-come-by skill in pioneering days. How Jeremy accomplishes it, and becomes involved in Canada's first newspaper, the Halifax Gazette in 1752 makes a fascinating tale.

I liked the small touches of eighteenth century English such as, "Eee, if it baint be Mr. Cockscomb himself" that are immediately self-explanatory and never overwhelming, but they add authentic atmosphere to the story. Author James has a talent for writing easy-flowing conversation, and indeed this story could well be adapted as a fascinating three-act play for children.

Apart from the cover, which is a facsimile of the first Halifax Gazette with a steel engraving of a 'Columbian' printing press superimposed on it, there are no illustrations. But the paper, the type and the design of Jeremy Gates and the Magic Key are first class, with an entire page separating chapters.

Highly recommended.

Joan M. Payzant, Dartmouth, N.S.
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