________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 18 . . . . April 27, 2007


Creature Catchers.

Lisa Smedman. Illustrated by Alisa Baldwin.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2007.
200 pp., pbk. & cl., $10.95 (pbk.), $19.95 (cl.).
ISBN 978-1-55451-057-3 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55451-058-0 (cl.).

Grades 5-7 / Ages 10-12.

Review by Mary Thomas.

**** /4

excerpt :

Candace and Kenneth exchanged a look. He was probably thinking the same thing she was. The will o' the wisp sounded boring.

"I read a book on the Moorlands," Candace said. "That's where the pixies have their burrows. They come out at night to dance in circles under the moon. Their voices are like music, it said. They sound like chimes  tinkling in the wind. They're terribly shy, but they love cream. You can coax them out and befriend them by leaving out a saucer of cream."

Uncle Nigel raised and eyebrow. "Oh can you, now?"

"Trolls," Kenneth said. "That's what I'd want to catch if I were going to the Moorlands. They're great lumbering stupid things, but terribly strong and fierce. But they have a weakness: they turn to stone in sunlight."

Uncle Nigel's other eyebrow rose. "Is that so?"

Don't let the cover put you off. The two bug-eyed children in vaguely nineteenth-century dress are not nearly as gormless as they appear. In fact, the twins, Kenneth and Candace, although usually opposed both to those in authority and to each other, are united in their individual determinations to go with Uncle Nigel on his expedition to the Moorlands to capture a will o' the wisp. Uncle Nigel has invented a type of electric net in which to trap this particular creature. Neither child cares about the will o' the wisp. Kenneth is determined to manage to chain up a clumsy, stupid, but impressive troll, and Candace to persuade a sweet little Moorland pixie to return to Londinium to live in her garden, but both of them are intent on winning the Royal Cryptozoological Society's prize for capturing the most unusual creature. From the society’s name, you can guess that the country where Londinium is situated--probably called Angleterra, though this is not mentioned--abounds in mythological creatures and being a creature catcher is a very respected profession. Permission to accompany their uncle having been denied firmly both by their vague, bookish father and by rabidly suffragette mother, naturally the twins stow away in Uncle Nigel's dirigible. They do find their creatures through a series of amusing adventures in which most of their preconceived notions, including each's disdain for the other's preferred methods of operation, get turned on their heads. And yes, they do win the prize--jointly!

     Creature Catchers is a thoroughly tongue-in-cheek adventure which is lots of fun. The twins end up learning a great deal about the 'creatures' they are pursuing (and so do we) as well as about each other. Candace's gently polite approach works wonders on the enormous troll who turns out to be a lot kinder and more soft-hearted--as well as much less slow and stupid--than they had been led to believe, and conversely, Kenneth's ability to throw rocks is all that gets him out of the pixies' faerie ring where he would probably have been danced to exhaustion and then eaten alive. So much for gentle pixie-folk who can be wooed with a saucer of cream as if they were a clutch of cuddly kittens!

     As I said, ignore the cover and enjoy the book. I certainly did.

Highly Recommended.

Mary Thomas lives and works in Winnipeg, MB, but has occasionally wondered about the possibility of pixies and trolls in the Canadian Shield country around her cottage.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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