________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 22 . . . . June 22, 2007


Max & Maddy and the Bursting Balloons Mystery.

Alexander McCall Smith. Illustrated by Macky Pamintuan.
Toronto, ON: Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 2007.
80 pp., cloth, $12.95.
ISBN 978-067697775-2.

Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.

Review by Sandi Harrison.

*1/2 /4

Reviewed from Advance Uncorrected Proof.


“As you may know,” [Mr. Helium] said, “I live in New York. I’ve been planning a race—a balloon race—from New York, all the way over America, and up into Canada. The race would finish in Vancouver, which is right on the other side at the edge of the ocean.”

“That’s a long way,” said Maddy. She was good at maps, and she could imagine just what lay between New York and Vancouver. There were wide prairies, the Great Lakes, and, of course, the balloons would have to go over the famous Rocky Mountains. It would not be easy.


The second book of the Max & Maddy series, Max & Maddy and the Bursting Balloon Mystery, takes the amateur detectives from their ice cream parlor on a balloon race across the continent with Mr. Helium. The prize for the race is a gold balloon and one million dollars. The problem is, however, that someone is sabotaging the contestants, and Mr. Helium needs help to find out who and why. He naturally hires Max and Maddy to help him uncover the answers.

     The characters in this second installment of the series are just as indistinguishable as they were in Max & Maddy and the Chocolate Money Mystery, but the plot picks up enough to make the story more interesting. The balloons offer an interesting vantage point on the world below, and the child reader is given the mental task of mapping the route that the race will take. They also hear familiar place names from both the United States and Canada that may be exciting to see in print.

     The villain at large is, naturally, Professor Sardine, still up to his old, familiar and stereotypical tricks. Ending with the Professor’s balloon crashing into a pigsty and Max and Maddy and everyone on the race celebrating with a delicious cake made of helium, The Bursting Balloon Mystery is more successful in creating movement and intrigue in the story than The Chocolate Money Mystery. As a unique and memorable book, however, Max & Maddy once again fall flat.

Not recommended.

Sandi Harrison recently completed her Master of Arts in Children’s Literature at UBC and will begin her Bachelor of Education this fall.


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

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