________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 22 . . . . June 27, 2008

cover

Ten Lessons for Kaspar Snit.

Cary Fagan.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2008.
188 pp., pbk., $11.99.
ISBN 978-0-88776-835-4.

Grades 3-7 / Ages 8-12.

Review by Andrea Galbraith.

***1/2 /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.

excerpt:

Mom insisted that we take showers and put on nice clothes before going to Kaspar Snit's house.

"Why do I have to look good when I'm just going to be trapped inside a giant drum, or strapped to a cannonball and shot into the stratosphere?" Solly said.

"You're not going to be shot anywhere," Mom said, standing at the bathroom door to make sure he was really combing his hair. "I'm sure it'll be a perfectly nice evening."

But Mom wasn't really so sure. When I went into the kitchen, I found a note left on the table. Mom must have slipped it there while we were getting ready.

To whom it may concern,

We have gone for dinner to the teacher Mr. Parsstinka's house. We will be home by nine o'clock. If we are not home by then, please call the policeman at the station who likes to tell jokes and let him know that we have been captured by Kaspar Snit.

Thank you for your assistance in this matter.

Daisy Galinski

 

Thirteen-year-old Eleanor Blande is grounded. Creature Catcher, Levon du Plessy-Minsk, is on her trail, and her parents decide that no one in the family may use their flying powers. This gives Eleanor no escape from the gloom of her home life: her father, an unemployed fountain expert, is moping around in his bathrobe; her mother has developed fear of flying; and her nine-year-old brother, Solly, is having an identity crisis. On top of her family troubles, Eleanor has a crush on Fox, the new boy in her class, but she is tongue-tied whenever she tries to talk to him. At least notorious evil genius Kaspar Snit is nowhere around – that is, until he turns up as Eleanor's new homeroom teacher. The evil genius insists that he wants to reform and win the heart of the Widow Leer, the Galinski-Blande's ex-nanny. Eleanor and Solly are skeptical, but eventually they agree to give him lessons on being good, until suspicious thefts in the neighbourhood point to Kaspar Snit as the culprit. Eleanor and Solly try to help clear his name, only to be captured by the new evil genius in town. Eleanor is forced to be an accomplice in a daring jewel theft, but a devilishly clever gambit by her parents leads to the capture of the mastermind in his lair. With this threat out of the way, Fox and Eleanor, and Kaspar and Mrs. Leer find romance, and Eleanor's father gets back to his beloved fountain-building.

     This is the third novel by Cary Fagan featuring Kaspar Snit and the Galinksi-Blandes, and many of the supporting characters from the previous books, The Fortress of Kaspar Snit, and Directed by Kaspar Snit, are back for the latest installment. While the number of characters and plot lines might be confusing for younger readers, the author faithfully provides necessary background information unobtrusively throughout the book. It isn't necessary to have read the previous novels to enjoy this one, but it will probably be most satisfying to those who are already familiar with the characters.

     Ten Lessons for Kaspar Snit is full of clever dialogue and comic situations, but it is also an action-packed, inventive, page-turner with several surprises. Much of the humour can be enjoyed by children and adults alike, and the supportive, caring family dynamic of the Galinski-Blande family is pleasing. The scenes are cinematic, and many of the characters are intentional caricatures that will remind the reader of cartoons or comics. However, the author takes care to develop the characters through physical description, their reactions to being placed in different situations, their inner preoccupations, and particularly, their dialogue. Characters are instantly identifiable when they speak; especially Solly, who is a precocious wise-cracker.

     There are places in the novel where the reader needs to make a leap of faith; for example, it isn't described how Eleanor's parents find the villain's lair and overhear his plans. The sudden appearance of Mrs. Leer is also not adequately accounted for. Some plot twists follow the fantastical logic of cartoons; readers who are comfortable with this will enjoy this book.

     While the novel is eventful, it is not all fast-paced action. The ten-step program that the children devise to reform Kaspar is developed in several funny scenes where he tries to write a poem, build a rowboat and complete the rest of the tasks they set for him. The characters are in top form, the dialogue sizzles, and interest is maintained although the sense of danger has receded. Younger readers will appreciate these changes of pace. The tone of the book is always light, with wisecracks being made even when the action heats up and the good guys are in a dangerous situation. While still enjoying the sense of jeopardy that is developed, the reader never really doubts that it will all work out in the end.

     The final chapters are somewhat weak as the author tries to wrap up the many story lines. Some of these scenes are too drawn out, and events like Kaspar Snit's wedding may not engage readers in the target age group. Too much happens in the denouement, and everything becomes a little too golden for Eleanor's family as her father is handed a huge commission to build fountains for Verulia and the amulet that gave the family their flying powers is abruptly returned.

     Ten Lessons for Kaspar Snit would be an enjoyable family read,or a read-alone for ages 8-12. The length and denseness of the plot make it more appropriate as a read-aloud for reluctant readers.

Highly Recommended.

Andrea Galbraith is a student librarian and writer based in Vancouver, BC.

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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