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John Ibbitson
Don Mills (Ont.), Maxwell Macmillan
Canada, 1993. 148pp, paper, ISBN 0-02-954209-X (paper) $9.95,
ISBN 0-02-954098-4(cloth) $14.95. CIP

Grades 6-9 / Ages 11-14

Reviewed by Margaret Mackey

Volume 22 Number 3
1994 May/June

Who says they don't make books like they used to? This  Boys'-Own-Paper saga is the kind of rattling good yarn our grandfathers cut their teeth on. Set in Toronto in 1954, The Night Hazel Came to Town tells the Horatio Alger tale of seventeen-year-old Lee, who leaves home and father to explore city life. He has barely arrived in the Toronto train station when he receives a tip about a job and, in the first of many lucky breaks, finds himself a copy boy at the Toronto Telegram. By the end of the book, he has worked his way up to being a cub reporter, with many adventures along the way.

Lee narrates his own story in a disarmingly disingenuous manner. He shares an apartment with an actress who is older and more sophisticated, adding unrequited love to his education. The details of daily life in 1954 Toronto are actually fascinating, even if the plot strains credulity.

In a postscript, Ibbitson hints that even the most far-fetched adventure has some basis in reality, so maybe, in those far-off days, pluck and resourcefulness really were enough to make your future. A lively and enjoyable read, this book reincarnates and recirculates all the legends of the old newsroom mystique.

Margaret Mackey is a Ph.D. student at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta

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