CM . . .
. Volume VIII Number 8 . . . . December 14, 2001
The fifth book in the "Abby and Tess, Pet-Sitters" series, Ants Don't Catch Flying Saucers finds 10-year-old Abby with a new but unwanted pet-sitting job, taking care of ants. Not only does she hate bugs, but the ant farm belongs to the one person in her class she dislikes the most, troublemaker Dirk. It is bad enough that Dirk is her team partner for the grade five Crazy Olympics, but now she has to take care of his ants over the weekend. Afraid that Tess, her six-year-old sister and partner, will cause more problems, Abby tries to exclude her from caring for the ants. Abby soon realizes that, just as she needs the help of her team to do well in the Olympics, teamwork is also necessary in her job.
Young readers are anxious to explore "chapter books," and Ants Don't Catch Flying Saucers provides them with manageable text and interesting characters. As part of a series, this book will entice them to read further adventures of Abby and Tess. Although Tess' dog behaviour seems a bit farfetched at times, younger readers will find this amusing. The conflict involving Dirk, an annoying classmate whose constant teasing seems to border on bullying, is a realistic situation experienced by many children. The manner in which the conflict is resolved deals with the important theme of relationships. It is unfortunate that the story depicts stereotypical roles, such as Dirk as the male bully. However, the author does focus on the developing friendship between Abby and Dirk. Abby's sense of responsibility in her job and her partnership with Tess are themes common to the other titles in this series. The author's integration of scientific information on ants will appeal to many young readers as well.
Selecting books for young readers is often a difficult task since a variety of factors are involved. Readability and high interest are important so that the child can read the text independently and become engaged in the story. A simple plot, realistic characters and the use of conversation seem to be common characteristics of many novels for this age group. The black and white illustrations in Ants Don't Catch Flying Saucers add humour and appeal to the text. It can be debated whether this book is quality literature, but the point should be made that books such as Ants Don't Catch Flying Saucers can be the springboard for children to begin their love of reading. Once they become engaged in reading, younger readers will then feel confident to explore other, possibly more challenging, books.
Janice Foster is a teacher in Fort Garry School Division in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.