________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 11 . . . . February 3, 2006


Ellen Fremedon, Journalist.

Joan Givner.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood/House of Anansi Press, 2005.
177 pp., pbk. & cl., $9.95 (pbk.), $18.95 (cl.).
ISBN 0-88899-691-8 (pbk.), ISBN 0-88899-668-3 (cl.).

Grades 5-7 / Ages 10-12.

Review by Reece Steinberg.

**½ /4


"I have issues with you about the muffins."

"What muffins?"

"The muffin recipe in your paper. I tried to make them this morning and the batter ran all over the oven. I just wanted to let you know that I wasted a free-range egg and good butter, not to mention flour, milk and a box of expensive blackberries. How could you be so careless?" She also told me I got Rover's age wrong in the paper. Then she slammed down the phone.


In Ellen Fremedon, Journalist, Ellen and her friend Jenny decide to spend the summer vacation in their small coastal community producing a newspaper. Ellen's goal, as the journalist, is to produce a publication free of the lies and mistakes she has witnessed in larger papers. After releasing the first issue of The Partridge Inquirer, Ellen begins to realize the difficulty of publishing a paper without errors. She also learns that, even when her facts are correct, they can upset other people.

     Throughout the summer, Ellen investigates a wide range of stories, dealing briefly with issues relating to adoption, vandalism and fame. The novel, itself, tackles many other themes, such as same-sex marriage, freedom of religion, the punishment of criminals, and shoplifting. This approach adds interest and controversy to Ellen Fremedon, Journalist as some of the subjects are approached naturally and woven well into the story. In other cases, the approach is somewhat heavy-handed and detracts from the writing. Givner does not give her young readers enough credit; they will understand the points of view she wishes to impart even if the message is subtler.

     Journalistic integrity is an ongoing theme of the book. Ellen begins the newspaper in part as a response to the lies that she perceives the local paper printed about her family. Ellen learns about the balance between freedom of the press and invasion of privacy as well as the difference between honest journalists and paparazzi. Ellen's father, a professor, introduces some philosophical terms and explains them to the family. The book also illustrates, both for Ellen and the reader, the value of copy-editing and other tips for writers.

"I'll mark all the spelling and grammar mistakes. But you have to use your grammar books and your dictionaries to correct the mistakes."

"How will we know where the mistakes are?" I said.

Instead of answering he went into the house. When he came back, he gave us each a copy of a grammar handbook. Inside the back page is said Revision Symbols. Higg said there were symbols for all the mistakes we were likely to make- sp for spelling, frag for a sentence that didn't have a verb, and a whole lot more.

     These lessons may hold the interest of some readers, but many will be put off the attempts to teach them topics they may already learn about in school. Ellen Fremedon, Journalist could be more successful if it featured fewer issues and lessons but looked at the more interesting topics in depth.

     Overall, the story is fairly interesting and enjoyable. Ellen, as a character, is likeable and easy to identify with. Her mischievous twin brothers and strict religious housekeeper/nanny ground Ellen in reality and provide the story with some humourous situations. The regular mealtime banter around the family's table is often funny and easy to relate to. Ellen Fremedon, Journalist is quick-paced, and though it uses advanced vocabulary words, it provides a context which will help readers understand the meaning of the sentence, even if the words are unfamiliar. The story is unique and includes elements of mystery, comedy and serious fiction. It includes references to classic literature and artist/writer Emily Carr, references which may interest readers with a literary or arts background. It also includes some references to the author's first book for young readers, Ellen Fremedon; however, it is not necessary to read the first book in which Ellen appears in order to enjoy the second one.

     Unfortunately, though Ellen Fremedon, Journalist is mostly a good story, the cover art for this book is bland, unattractive and looks dated. This first impression will possibly prevent many young readers from even picking up the book to look at it.

Recommended with reservations.

Reece Steinberg is completing a Master's degree in Library and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC.


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

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ISSN 1201-9364
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