________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 12 . . . .February 18, 2005


Sudden Death in New York City. (The Screech Owls series; 13).

Roy MacGregor.
Toronto, ON: McClelland & Stewart, 2000.
124 pp., pbk., $6.99.
ISBN 0-7710-5642-7.

Grades 5-7 / Ages 10-12.

Review by Pam Klassen-Dueck.

*** /4


Horror on River Road. (The Screech Owls series; 14).

Roy MacGregor.
Toronto, ON: McClelland & Stewart, 2001.
124 pp., pbk., $6.99.
ISBN 0-7710-5643-5.

Subject Headings:
Lacrosse-Juvenile fiction.
Horror films-Juvenile fiction.
Detective and mystery stories.

Grades 5-7 / Ages 10-12.

Review by Pam Klassen-Dueck.

*** /4



"So," Nish said triumphantly, turning on Fahd. "Is there anything in the Guinness Book of World Records on 'mooning'?"

Fahd looked up, incredulous. "What?"

"Mooning—what's the world's record for mooning? If I mooned a billion people at once, would I get in?"

Travis looked across the room at Sarah, who rolled her eyes and sighed.

Travis tried to cut off his imagination, but it had already raced ahead of him. He could see the crowd at Times Square. He could see the big video monitor and hear the countdown: Ten! . . . Nine! . . . Eight! . . . Seven! . . . Six! . . . Five! . . . Four! . . . Three! . . . Two! . . . One! And then, instead of the fireworks and balloons, the big screen filling with the bare-naked butt of the world's craziest peewee hockey player. Travis shook his head hard, hoping to shake off the thought the way a wet dog throws off water.

"Would I get in?" Nish repeated.

"Well, I guess," said Fahd. "But you'd get in big trouble, wouldn't you?"

"How?" Nish laughed, as if Fahd had just asked the dumbest question ever. "It's not as if I'd be sticking my face on the screen, is it?" (From Sudden Death in New York City.)


In Sudden Death in New York City, the Owls, a peewee hockey team from small-town Canada, are on their way to an exciting tournament in the Big Apple. They will play in the famed Madison Square Gardens and spend New Year's Eve whooping it up at Times Square ... as long as they behave, of course! Little do their families know that crazy Nish, in his effort to carve his name into the Guinness Book of World Records, is designing an even more spectacular stunt. He plans to interrupt the broadcast of the New Year's Eve TV special to moon its one billion viewers! That is, until the Owls discover that New York City terrorists are planning to use Nish's idea in an even more dramatic way on New Year's Eve!

     Next, in Horror on River Road, the Owls would like nothing more than to keep playing hockey throughout their summer holidays, but their coach, Muck, convinces them instead to form a lacrosse team for a few months. With the help of a new lacrosse coach, Mr. Fontaine, the Owls quickly fall in love with the game. However, Travis discovers a link between Mr. Fontaine and a long-forgotten supposed murder on River Road. He's even seen the ghost of the dead young boy! Nish grabs the real-life story to supply the plot for his new horror movie. As the Owls film the flick, they unearth the truth about the murder...and find themselves part of a real-life spine-tingling plot.

     Roy MacGregor's thirteenth and fourteenth installments in "The Screech Owls" series rely on the blueprint of quick humour, a fast-paced plot, and generous scoops of sports to intrigue young hockey lovers. For example, Sudden Death will attract kids as soon as they read the 'icky' opening paragraphs:

"World record for the longest fingernail..." Fahd looked up, his eyes widening, "...is four feet, one-and-a-half inches!"

"How the heck would you pick your nose?" Nish asked.

     The action surrounding Nish's outrageous antics continues at a fast clip, interspersed with engaging play-by-plays of the Screech Owls' games.

     I was disappointed, however, that the climaxes of both novels are so quickly passed by. For instance, only three pages are used in Sudden Death to describe the period between the discovery of the sinister terrorist scheme to the time that the assault charges against the culprits are filed. Relatively more time is spent to conclude the novel as it ends with the Owls' exciting final game of the championship. Similarly, in Horror, Travis's detection of the truth surrounding the death of Mr. Fontaine's son happens too quickly. As a result, in both novels, the plot seems hurried at the end.

     The actual feasibility of the Owls' antics are, of course, unbelievable. What is the likelihood of a peewee hockey team coming into contact with terrorists? But no matter since fun is all that counts in this series!

     As energetic as sudden-death overtime, Sudden Death in New York City and Horror on River Road are active reads from Roy MacGregor, and they will engage hockey lovers between the ages of ten to twelve.


Pam Klassen-Dueck is a Grade 8 teacher at Gillis School in Tyndall, MB.

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

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