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Bernice Hunter.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic-TAB, 1990.
150pp., paper, $4.50.
ISBN 0-590-73421-0. CIP.

Grades 4 and up / Ages 9 and up

Reviewed by David H. Elias.

Volume 18 Number 4
1990 July

Living next to a railway crossing that's guarded by a crusty old man who is prone to heart attacks can lead to all kinds of adventure. It provides Skip Skinner with an opportunity to do what little boys like to do best in books like this: get into trouble, then get out of it by doing something heroic. For the benefit of those young readers who didn't catch on the first time, Bernice Hunter goes through this routine twice, sort of like one of those teachers we've all had who always repeat their instructions. There doesn't seem to be much point to it all. If it's just for fun, then why throw in stuff about kids losing arms and legs and old men (that you've grown fond of) having heart attacks? If it's serious, then get past the basal reader dialogue and put some meaning into the story.

A lot of things happen that generate interest. There's a visit from Skip's grandmother, who develops a romantic interest in old Charlie (the railroad guard). There's an attractive but strict young school teacher who throws a few curves (I mean that figuratively) at Skip. A younger sister even provides some excitement when she discovers a secret Skip has been keeping. But these sorts of things are given barebones treatment and they don't really make any difference in the story one way or the other.

Young boys may enjoy reading about the days of steam locomotives (there are also some black-and-white photographs scattered throughout the book), but there really isn't much else to recommend here.

David H. Elias, Winnipeg, MB.
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