________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 3 . . . . September 29, 2006


Martin Bridge Blazing Ahead!

Jessica Scott Kerrin. Illustrated by Joseph Kelly.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2006.
109 pp., pbk. & cl., $5.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55337-962-4 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55337-961-6 (cl.).

Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10.

Review by Mary Thomas.

** /4



"Okay, troop," boomed Head Badger Bob. "A few of you are going for your Junior Campfire Badge tonight. To earn this badge, you have to entertain the troop. ... Martin Bridge, you're next. Martin will entertain us with a lesson on Morse code."

Martin stood up and turned on his flashlight.

"Morse code is a way to send messages without a phone or a computer," explained Martin. "Each letter is made up of short and long bursts of light or sound. I can signal any letter you want."

"How about the letter I'm supposed to write to my mom on this trip," Alex called out. "Can you signal that?"

"Not letters you mail," said Martin, rolling his eyes. "Letters of the alphabet."

He took a deep breath, refusing to let Alex rattle him. "Here's how to signal the word 'lost'."

Martin Bridge is back with a couple of vacation stories which, although not quite as universal as his school experiences, are certainly situations that lots of kids can recognize. An overnight camp in the woods on a lake with the Junior Badgers--and his dad as a parent volunteer--includes canoeing (lucky Badgers!) and a campfire and a walk through the woods. All these activities are overshadowed by Martin's apprehension that he is to be the brunt of one of his friend Alex's practical jokes involving a pot of bright green "slime" disguised as hot-dog relish and Martin's attempts to avoid the inevitable. The second story involves mostly Martin and his dad and the way that "helping" his father never turns out to be optional and always turns out to have to be done just when he wants to do something else--in this case, watch the summer reruns of his favourite TV program.

     Both of these are situations with general application. Even if you have never been to camp, you have undoubtedly had enjoyable experiences overshadowed by the dread of a disaster which may or may not occur. So Martin's managing to have fun in spite of Alex's slime--and managing to get back at him--will strike a chord with any young reader. And it does no harm to be reminded that helping is a good way of learning, whether it's how to make cookies or which type of screw responds to a Philips screwdriver. That parents were once-upon-a-time children and that girls can be mechanics are slightly obvious object lessons, but useful, nevertheless.

     I thought these stories were well written, but with the exception of Harry Potter, no grown up can say for sure what will appeal to a young reader; and so I asked my resident experts, ages eight and ten. This being summer vacation, the former was not all that keen on reading or being read to, but admitted that the stories were "pretty good, really" which I take to be high relatively praise. The 10-year-old, on the other hand, said, "Boring! All talk and no action." My conclusion is that a good deal of their appeal is in coping with the challenge of the actual reading, rather than the gripping nature of the tales, and that, I am afraid, is not a strong recommendation.

Recommended with reservations.

After a year in England, Mary Thomas is looking forward to returning to a school library in Winnipeg, MB.

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

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.