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Sandy Watson
Victoria (B.C.), Orca Book Publishers, 1991. l0lpp, paper, $7.95
ISBN 0-920501-68-0. CIP

Grades 4 to 6/Ages 9 to 11

Reviewed by Jennifer Johnson.

Volume 20 Number 2
1992 March

Problems abound for nine-year-old Fiona. She is suffering the humiliation of a botched sewing task at Brownies and is frustrated when her unicorn project is deemed unsuitable for the Science Fair. Fiona has a smart-alek older brother who is organized where Fiona is not, and she has a classroom bully to contend with. When an outing with her four-year-old babysitting charge Stanley goes very wrong, Fiona is forced to use all of her creativity and quick thinking to take control.

Fiona has considerable appeal as a lively, independent character, but her story is not a successful one. Too many events are packed into this short novel, to the detriment of character develop­ment, including that of Fiona. Parents, friends and teachers are reduced to sketches and, with the latter, the portrayals are extremely negative. The text and in particular the dialogue are problematic. Emphasized words are printed in bold caps, exclamation points are used excessively, and contracted language and slang, especially that used by young Stanley, seem contrived. Phrases inappropriate for children (i.e., "it hurt like the dickens") are used and awkward sentences arc frequent ("Then an idea burst in her imagination like a soap bubble"). Fiona presents a satisfy­ing, if unrealistic, conclusion, but young readers deserve more skilful writing and fully realized characters.

Illustrations by Terry Stafford are interspersed throughout the text. These are uneven and do not match the standard of the pencil sketch that brightens the title page.

Jennifer Johnson, Ottawa, Ont.
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