________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 1 . . . . September 4, 2009


The Big Dip. (Orca Currents).

Melanie Jackson.
Victoria, BC: Orca. 2009.
109 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (bk.), $16.95(hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55469-178-4 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55469-179-1 (hc.).

Grades 6-10 / Ages 11-15.

Review by Erin Walker.

***½ /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.


The passengers from our train and from the train behind us crowded around. There were some gasps, but nobody said anything. They just stared.

I realized I was still holding the old man's shoulder. I let go.

The sides of his jacket fell back. That's when I saw it.

The small black hole at the back of his neck. Blood spread from it like a red scarf.

"Not a heart attack," I breathed. "This guy was shot."


Melanie Jackson, author of the popular "Dinah Galloway Mystery" series, has written her first entry under the "Orca Currents" banner. "Orca Currents" are short, high-interest novels written for "reluctant" readers in the middle-school to early high school grades.

     The Big Dip is an old wooden roller coaster at Vancouver's Pacific National Exhibition. Fifteen-year-old Joe Lumby and his best friend, Skip, are enjoying the thrill of the ride until they discover that the old man in the seat in front of them has been shot. Seconds from death, the old man whispers his last words to Joe:

"A plant……the Margaret rose……Get it to the police……"

     Joe leaves the scene of the crime without any idea what the old man was talking about. But the message gets Joe into a heap of trouble. Someone thinks Joe has the Margaret rose and will stop at nothing to get it. After he is assaulted in the school bathroom by a bulky figure in a trench coat, Joe races home to call the police. But while he is making the call, the unthinkable happens -- Joe's little sister Ellie is kidnapped by his attacker. The kidnapper agrees to trade Ellie for the Margaret rose behind the roller coaster at closing time. This propels Joe into a frantic race to find the rose in time to save his sister.

     As Joe desperately searches for the mysterious rose, he discovers he's not the only who is after it. There are others who Joe recognizes from the roller coaster that day who want to get their hands on it. If Joe doesn't get to it before one of them does, Ellie's life is in grave danger. The problem is, Joe doesn't know for sure what he's looking for. The Margaret Rose could be any one of a number of valuable treasures. And just when Joe thinks he's got it all figured out, there's a dramatic twist in the story that will shock readers.

     Jackson has penned a roller coaster of a story that is action-packed and full of mystery and suspense. It is a quick read, and the action takes place against the backdrop of an amusement park, a fun and familiar setting for many pre-teens and teens. Joe is an ordinary teen whose extraordinary test challenges his self-confidence and belief in himself. While the depiction of some of the other characters seems black and white at times, this ultimately reinforces the underlying lesson that people are not always what they seem.

Highly Recommended.

Erin Walker is a Master of Library and Information Studies candidate at the University of Western Ontario in London, ON.

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

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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