________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 10 . . . . January 11, 2008

cover

Trouble Twins Save Christmas. (An Angela and Emmie Adventure).

Tom Schwarzkopf.
Halifax, NS: Nimbus, 2007.
121 pp., pbk., $10.95.
ISBN 978-1-55109-619-3.

Grades 5-7 / Ages 10-12.

Review by Karen Rankin.

* /4

excerpt:         

When Emmie returned from her room upstairs, Angela was standing at the window over the kitchen sink looking down the hill and across to the far side of the bay and the town.

“I never realized how much of Mahone Bay you can see from here, especially in the wintertime.” My grandmother on my dad’s side, when she was alive, said that you could ‘see everyone’s comin’s and goin’s from the sink.’ The other side of the coin, though, she said, is that the whole town knows what you’re up to. Like one time my mom was up most of the night when I had a fever, and the next day five people in town phoned to see why the lights were on all night and was everyone all right.”

“That must be annoying.” Angela turned from the window and picked up her flashlight. They went outside and locked up. “Oh it’s more nice than annoying,” Emmie eventually replied. “I mean, people out here are different. They’re nosy, but in a caring sort of way, and that’s fine with me.”

They picked their way carefully back down the path, grateful that it ran between their two houses. A walk from Angela’s would have meant half a mile down the winding gravel Indian Road, then another quarter mile up the hill on the edge of the highway and then up Emmie’s very long lane, a tiring and dangerous trip that neither would have taken. But the old path, from when the two homes had been in the same family early in the century, gave them the freedom to flit back and forth between their homes easily, and had cemented the friendship of the two young girls, who would otherwise have been friendless outside of school hours.    

 

Thirteen-year-olds Angela and Emily live in the small town of Mahone Bay, NS. Angela enjoys writing poetry, and Emily likes to write stories. So, when everyone in their grade eight class has to choose someone to “shadow” for Careers Day, the girls pick Mr. Woodward, their English teacher. Mr. Woodward is also their favourite teacher and the writer and publisher of the Time ’n Tide, Mahone Bay’s local newspaper. On job-shadowing day, Mr. Woodward shows the girls exactly how the small paper is produced. Shortly afterward, he comes down with pneumonia. When the girls visit him in hospital, he asks them to feed his pets, and he gives them the key to his house, which is also the Time ’n Tide office. It is apparent that Mr. Woodward will not be home in time to put out the pre-Christmas Time ’n Tide issue. When Angela and Emily become aware that the residents of Mahone Bay don’t seem to be getting into the Christmas spirit with their usual vigour, they decide to produce the Time ’n Tide themselves. After making an announcement in class, the girls manage to enlist some helpers who have ideas, photos and articles to fill extra pages. The students talk their vice-principal into letting them “showcase” the accomplishments of the school in addition to running the paper’s usual advertisements and regular columns. When the paper comes out on time, everyone in Mahone Bay starts spending their money on Christmas, and both girls get A++ on their Careers project.

     In Trouble Twins Save Christmas, the third book in Tom Schwarzkopf’s “Angela and Emmie Adventure” series, readers get interesting glimpses of small town and rural living, things which the author clearly treasures. And a minor thread – involving Billy, an obnoxious classmate of the girls – is satisfyingly resolved. Unfortunately, a cast of mostly unbelievable characters, as well as a predictable and disappointing conclusion, make Trouble Twins a novel this reviewer cannot recommend. Although Angela and Emily are nicknamed the Trouble Twins, in Trouble Twins Save Christmas, readers are never shown or told any of their troublesome behaviour. In fact, it’s difficult to imagine two more perfect or focused grade eight students. For instance, on job-shadowing day, the girls meet their teacher’s cockatoo, Gracie, for the first time. Their reaction is incredible: 

“Gracie,” said Mr. Woodward, “this is Angela and Emily. Would you like to say anything to them?” The bird sized them up for a moment, then decided they were friendly and extended a claw. “Please to meet you,” she rasped. Each girl took the claw gingerly and shook it gently. Then the great bird slowly lowered it onto the perch. “Will you be staying?” the bird asked.

“No Gracie, they are just guests from my school.” Mr. Woodward laughed. He looked at his watch. “I guess we had better get back at it, we have to finish this issue today, so I can take it to The Printer’s Inc. in Bridgewater.”

As they walked back into the office, Emmie got out her notepad. “What’s a typical issue schedule like, Mr. Woodward?”

Similarly, when the school VP threatens to stop the girls’ newspaper activities, although taken completely by surprise, their immediate response is as well thought out and articulate as that of any lawyer.“Ms. Dawson, you have always said that Mahone Bay Middle School has spirit. That we have pride in our work.”   “And that this is the best middle school academically in the country,” Emmie added. … Taking a deep breath [Angela] continued, “Putting out an edition of the Time ’n Tide with student help would be an excellent opportunity to show our spirit and our pride. We have already had several offers of talents we never knew existed in our classmates.”  The girls’ friends are also incredibly mature and well-spoken. For instance, following is a fellow eighth-grade student’s explanation for Billy’s mean behaviour:

“I think it’s a combination of things,” said Nick. “You do push each other’s buttons, but Billy has a lot on his mind right now, and I’m sure that you’re an outlet for his frustrations.”                

     Readers may be troubled by a somewhat sexist and stereotypical last-minute rescue of the Trouble Twins. When the girls hit a computer programming snag that threatens to foil their entire plan, it is Angela’s admirer, Nick, who talks the crying girl into not despairing: “Come on, Angie. It’s not over till the fat lady sings, or something like that.” Then, another boy – Billy – has to come in and fix the computer problem for Emily. And finally, when the girls and their friends do get the paper out on time, all of the Mahone Bay retailers are relieved because the citizens of the community finally start spending their money on Christmas. While this conclusion may be realistic, it fails to leave this reader with an uplifted, or even satisfied, feeling. 

Not Recommended.

Karen Rankin is a Toronto, ON, writer and teacher.

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.
 

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