________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 22. . . .February 13, 2015


X Marks The Spot!

Jeff Szpirglas & Danielle Saint-Onge. Illustrated by Dave Whamond.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2015.
54 pp., pbk., pdf & epub, $6.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-0791-4 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0791-1 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-0793-8 (epub).

Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.

Review by Jennifer Baetz.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



Leo stood there. He didn’t know what to do. If he went after Nadia and Eli, they would be late getting back. And they would probably get into trouble. If he went back alone, he could say they had run off without him. He wouldn’t be late, and it would not be his fault.

He heard Mr. Chang’s whistle. He took a few steps back toward the clearing.

Then he stopped.

Eli and Nadia were not good with maps. It was not safe.

The whistle kept blowing.


Leo loves to explore. He enjoys finding new routes to school and around the school playground and drawing maps of these discoveries. But he sometimes gets distracted, as explorers often do, and, despite his best intentions, it can lead to trouble. Leo might be late for class, but only because he was making sure a schoolmate didn’t lose her backpack or helping a grasshopper escape a colony of ants. And he sometimes gets in trouble when his classmates act irresponsibly. It can be very frustrating. Leo’s teacher, Mr. Chang, makes an exciting announcement one day in class: he will be giving out one award a month to a student who demonstrates good skills. The first award is for responsibility. Leo is reminded of his efforts to be responsible, which don’t always go the way he would like. Mr. Chang also announces that the class will be doing a special mapping project which will culminate in a field trip to the woods where the students will be tested on their skills. Leo is very excited: he’ll get a chance to prove himself as an explorer, and he can even bring his special compass watch on the field trip! He is determined to do well on this project and win the responsibility award.

internal art     Leo works hard in the weeks leading up to the field trip by arriving on time for school and lining up properly when the school bell rings. He’s not sure that Mr. Chang is noticing his efforts, however. On the day of the field trip, Leo has to make a hard decision after thinking about what it means to be responsible, especially when the safety of his classmates is in jeopardy.

     X Marks The Spot! is an “Orca Echoes” selection written by the husband and wife team of Jeff Szpirglas and Danielle Saint-Onge, both of whom are teachers in Toronto. Their book does an excellent job of highlighting the daily challenges children in the early grades of elementary school experience, including learning what it means to be responsible, making tough decisions, working with peers, and cooperating with other children who may not be the easiest people to get along with. Readers will be readily able to identify with the challenges that Leo encounters, particularly his frustration in trying to do the right thing but not always being understood because the end result is not desirable. The characters in the book are quickly and clearly sketched out, resembling the unique personalities of students that make up a class. Each chapter is about five pages long and contains one to two black and white illustrations by Dave Whamond, an illustrator who has done extensive work for educational publishers. The pace of each chapter is moderately brisk and leads seamlessly into the next. Readers must remember what happened in the story previously as the chapters do not stand on their own, making it a good selection for readers who are in the final stages of reading early chapter books. The language is clear, sometimes subtly humourous, and will resonate with readers between seven and nine years of age.

Highly Recommended.

Jennifer Baetz is a Fine Arts Librarian in Saskatoon, SK.

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

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