________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 18 . . . . January 16, 2015


The Boston Breakout. (Screech Owls).

Roy MacGregor.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2014.
162 pp., pbk. & epub, $9.99 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-77049-421-3 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-77049-426-8 (epub).

Grades 3-7 / Ages 8-12.

Review by Jonine Bergen.

** /4



The most spectacular Owls play of the game had been a pure disaster. Nish took the puck behind his own net, banked a pass to himself off the back boards as a checker flew past him, then broke out hard up the right side. At the blue line, he fed a pass across to Travis, who used the give-and-go to get the puck right back to Nish as the big Owls' defenseman blew right past center ice.

Nish perfectly split the Young Blackhawks' defense as he came in, leaping high at one point to clear their sticks as both defenders fell.

He was in alone. Which was when he tried his "showboat" play of putting his stick through his own legs for the spectacular Mario Lemieux shot.

Only it didn't work. Nish ended up tripping himself and crashed to the ice. He slammed into backboards, where he lay moaning while the puck trickled harmlessly off of the other corner.

Captain Travis is back with his Owl teammates in the next instalment of the "Screech Owl" series by prolific author Roy MacGregor. In this episode, the team, including the obnoxious Nish, are on a summer trip to Boston for a little bit of education and summer hockey.

      MacGregor has a lot of smaller plots in this middle years novel. First, the Screech Owls' coach is usually not keen on summer hockey, believing the players should play other sports during the summer, but he also knows a trip to Boston could be educational. So, when the team decides to participate in the Paul Revere tournament in Boston they know they are not in hockey shape and that they will be playing against teams who have not had a summer break. As always, MacGregor's hockey scenes are spot on with the right amount of hockey lingo and action to keep the scenes moving. Readers can follow the team as they struggle to find their hockey legs and play the game with passion and skill.

      The rest of the novel, however, is disjointed and episodic. MacGregor has chosen to follow two additional plotlines in his tale - with a smattering of knowledge about Boston thrown in for good measure. First, the reader follows Nish as he decides he is going to drop out of school like his new hero, Benjamin Franklin. So, he sends a postcard to his mother and proceeds to start brainstorming inventions. Nish is intended to provide the humour for the story as he has in previous books. In this book, however, the reader may find that, like garlic or onions, a little Nish is flavour - a lot of Nish drowns out all the other flavours.

      The other plot revolves around the New England Aquarium, eco-terrorism, and Owl teammate Samantha Bennett. While visiting the New England Aquarium, the team witnesses an animal rights protest. After the protest, Samantha starts researching the movement and begins to question how the animals in the aquarium are being treated. Over the course of a couple of days, she decides to become a vegetarian, then a vegan, and she starts to secretly meet with the Aquarium protest organizer, Frances Assisi. Before long, Samantha realizes that, by committing to the cause of the animal rights movement, she may have also committed to shadier activities that could end in destruction and death.

      By focussing on several plots at once, MacGregor does not give any plot enough attention. Many young people are very interested in environmental issues. The Boston Breakout could have portrayed the pros and cons of any one of these issues. But by grouping vegetarianism, veganism, the animal rights movement and eco-terrorism together, the author unintentionally trivializes all of them.

      In the final analysis, I think The Boston Breakout suffers from excess; too much Nish and too many plots. In hockey terms, MacGregor has too many men on the ice. But, for the reader who loves hockey, MacGregor is tough to beat.

Recommended with Reservations.

Jonine Bergen is a librarian 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.
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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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