A FOREST OF SUSPICION
Volume 21 Number 5
The "Junior Nature" series, originally published in French, strives to increase awareness of the environment and wildlife for readers from eight to twelve. While these goals are commendable, Josee Plourde's novels, with their predictable plots and stock characters, fail to inspire any zeal in their readers.
A Forest of Suspicion centres on an unexplained rivalry between Stephanie, Andrea, Alex, and the infamous Trottier brothers, whose pranks are neither original nor convincingly executed. The story takes place in the woods of the Eastern Townships area of Quebec, where Stephanie's father, a conservation officer, is trying to catch poachers. When Alex and Andrea arc kidnapped by the Trottiers, they inadvertently stumble upon a clue that helps the adults capture the poacher. At the same time, Stephanie discovers another side to Steve Trottier and there is the hint of some future romance.
In Penelope's Eyes, Stephanie's family agrees to take in a seeing-eye dog. Penelope, until she is old enough to be trained. Although the foster family must not develop a strong attachment to the dog, Stephanie's friend Andrea is so desperate to have a dog of her own that she deliberately disregards instructions.
When Andrea runs away with Penelope, they become lost in the forest. When the two are found and returned home, Stephanie and Andrea are taken to the facility where seeing-eye dogs are trained. Andrea realizes the importance of Penelope's role, and she grudgingly comes to terms with the loss of "her dog." However, after three weeks at the training facility, Penelope is sent back to live with Andrea because she cannot bond with her new master. Although Penelope will be used to breed seeing-eye dogs, the simplistic ending rewards Andrea's misbehaviour; Andrea shows no remorse or regret that her selfishness has made Penelope unfit for her original role.
The gentle illustrations by Lise Monette are appropriate and make these books physically attractive. My initial impression was that this series would be welcomed by teachers and librarians hoping to find materials to bridge the gap between picture-books and chapter books. While there is a need for easy chapter books, the weak plots and one-dimensional characters prevent A Forest of Suspicion or Penelope's Eyes from serving any useful role.
This series is not recommended.
Edith Parsons is Assistant Manager, Information Division, with Edmonton Public Library in Edmonton, Alberta.
1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995
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