________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 14 . . . . March 17, 2006


3 Feet Under. (HIP-JR.).

Paul Kropp.
Toronto, ON: High Interest Publishing, 2005.
66 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 1-897039-14-X.

Grades 3-8 / Ages 8-13.

Review by Meredith MacKeen.

**** /4


Fear is not a good thing. When a person is afraid, things go wrong. When a person is afraid, he makes mistakes. When a person is afraid, little mistakes become big ones.

Both Scott and Rico were afraid now.

The tunnel seemed much darker with only one flashlight. Even worse, that light seemed to be getting dimmer.

With two lights, they could see the walls and follow the tunnel. With one light, they could only see the tunnel floor. It was shiny and wet, with cracks and lumps that could make a person fall.

The boys were moving too fast now. The fear had crept into their bones and was taking over. It pushed them to rush ahead, to make mistakes.

With this hi-lo title, Paul Kropp has created a fast paced thriller for those experiencing reading difficulties. In a straightforward plot, Scott finds a map among his grandfather's possessions, and he believes the map leads to treasure reputedly buried in an abandoned coal mine. On Scott’s way to school, he is harassed by the local bully, Clay, who steals his backpack containing the precious map. Rico, Scott’s best friend, offers his assistance in retrieving the map.

Their first plan fails, but the two decide to explore the old mine using Scott's memory of the map as their guide. A few calamities arise, and soon they hear the sound of shoveling. They correctly guess that Clay must have found the treasure. During the ensuing struggle amongst the three boys, the mine collapses. Rico, the athletic popular student with the big smile, handles himself easily above ground and with bravado against bullies, but, in crisis situations, he crumples. Scott, the more academic and shy of the two, has the courage and fortitude to get all of them out of the mine. However, they are obliged to leave behind the treasure. Their individual stories about their adventures are added to the folklore that surrounds the mystery of Bolton Mine.

     The simple plot and uncomplicated sentence structure make the book accessible to limited readers. Unfortunately, choice of words sometimes limits the read aloud quality of the novel. The characters are contemporary, and the setting, abandoned old mines, can likely be found in every region of Canada. The two dimensional heros are likeable while the third character is just the bully. This bit of character development does appeal to everyone and helps make the story seem plausible. At the end, readers are assured that the bully “...stopped beating up on little kids. He stopped stealing lunch money. Clay Prentice never became a good guy, but he stopped being a bully.”

Highly Recommended.

Meredith MacKeen is a teacher-librarian at Glen Stewart Elementary in Stratford, PE.

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

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