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Bertrand Gauthier
Illustrated by Daniel Dumont; translated by Sarah Cummins
Halifax, Formac Publishing, 1991. 55pp, paper, $5.95
ISBN 0-88780-092-0. (First Novel series). CIP

Grades 2 to 4/Ages 7 to 9

Reviewed by Joan Hewer.

Volume 20 Number 2
1992 March

This "beginning reader" novel is one of four recently translated and released in English from a series popular among young readers of Quebec. The main strength of the series is format: here are pocket-sized "novels," with appealing covers and titles, large print and very few black-and-white sketches interrupt­ing the text, the text being divided into chapters which are listed in a table of contents at the front of the book.

Great care has been taken to make these books just like real "big kids'" novels. Certainly, the text is convinc­ingly "grown-up," seasoned as it is with several "big" words. This feature may prove a drawback to those readers ready for the format but who do not have the reading ability to tackle such words as "sacrifice," "efficient," "proce­dure," "essential," "circumstances" and "necessary," all found on the same page of the novel. This book is labelled "FN2," but teachers will still have to decide what level of reader would be able to handle the text.

The translation seems smooth enough, using enough English idioms and expressions to be convincing. What could be seen as a weakness lies in the content of the novel itself. The story deals with a set of super-identical twins, so alike that they can pull pranks on teachers, parents and storekeepers: getting two ice-cream cones for the price of one, and being one super student instead of two average ones.

The problem is that there is really no story; the book simply gives us a look at the lives of the boys. They get away with all of their pranks; there is no conflict or resolution coming to a satisfying close, as we have come to expect of "stories." Readers are likely to feel cheated having read all six chapters to find no conclusion, not to mention that it docs not seem right that the boys get away with such dishonest behav­iour, whatever the circumstances.

Because of the format, the series to which this book belongs may catch on with English readers as it seems to have with the French ones. It would be unfair to judge the series by this one example, but if the others are as weak on content, I doubt that they will compete with some of the beginning novels already available to young readers in English.

Joan Hewer, J.D. Hogarth School, Fergus, Ont.
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