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Michael Bedard
Toronto, Lester Publishing, 1994. 224pp, cloth, $16.95
ISBN 1-895555-48-5. Distributed by Nelson Canada. CIP

Grades 5 to 9/Ages 10 to 14

Reviewed by Dave Jenkinsen

Volume 22 Number 5
1994 October

The powerful theme of Bedard's first novel, A Darker Magic, which concerns mankind's enduring need to maintain vigilance against the omnipresence of evil, continues in renewed and expanded form in Painted Devil, as Emily Endicott, now a forty-two-year-old spinster, returns to Caledon, convinced by her dreams that the demonic magician, Professor Mephisto, will malevolently reappear on the twenty-eighth anniversary of his August 8 magic show, again to seek the death of a child. As the task of vigilance must be passed on to the next generation, Emily enlists the aid of her fourteen-year-old niece, Alice Higginson, a student assistant at the local public library. Recruited by the new librarian, Mr. Dwyer, to participate in staging a children's Punch and Judy puppet show, Alice is to assume the role of Punch, the character ultimately dragged off by the painted puppet devil. As the book's title intimates, while Emily has been appropriately vigilant, she has failed to recognize the darker magic's ability to adopt new guises.

The overall fine quality of writing, especially the richness of language and imagery, found in Bedard's previous two novels are no less present in Painted Devil. Since today's juveniles are not likely to be familiar with the plot of "Punch and Judy," Bedard unobtrusively, yet effectively, provides the play's script via short inter-chapters. Like all truly superior children's books, Painted Devil can be enjoyed by juvenile and adult readers Alike, while repeated readings over a number of years will only lead to maturing understanding of the book's thematic contents. Painted Devil can stand alone, but readers may find its contents enriched if they have previously encountered A Darker Magic.

Most highly recommended.

Dave Jenkinsen teaches children's and adolescent literature courses in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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