CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 20. . . .February 3, 2017
Full Speed Ahead: Errol’s Bell Island Adventure.
Sheilah Lukins. Illustrated by Laurel Keating.
St. John’s, NL: Tuckamore Books/Creative, 2016.
32 pp., pbk., $12.95.
Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.
Review by Janice Foster.
After a while, the ship’s engines began to shudder as the boat slowed on its approach to Bell Island. Deckhands bustled about, preparing to secure the vessel. One headed straight for Errol.
Full Speed Ahead: Errol’s Bell Island Adventure will captivate young readers with its fast moving adventure of a young mouse. Errol, living with his family in Portugal Cove, longs to travel to the rugged cliffs of the neighbouring Bell Island. His friend, Old Rat, has told him many stories about sailing ships and how their ancestors had arrived in Newfoundland. When the opportunity arises for Errol to slip away one evening, he doesn’t hesitate to begin his adventure, unaware of the danger and excitement that he will encounter.
Children are often eager to venture into the reading realm of chapter books. The challenge for an author is to provide young readers with an exciting story, a good pace and a variety of events that hold their interest. Author Sheilah Lukins achieves all of this in Full Speed Ahead. Errol’s adventures vary from being nearly run over by a car, crawling on his belly across the ship’s rope to get to shore, barely escaping being eaten by a cat and then a seagull, going down into Bell Island’s iron ore mines and floating inside a bottle when he is dropped into the cold ocean waters. The large cartoon-like illustrations by Laurel Keating, either coloured or in gray scale, enhance the story with their attention to detail. The bold text with its clear spacing is easy to read. Although the vocabulary may be challenging, Lukins uses words that add richness to the text. Examples like “heaved a sigh,” “he huddled in a tuft of grass”, “ravenous”, and “as he did a commando roll into the long grass” illustrate how the language captures the feelings and expressive images of the story. Many of the words can be determined by the context, and others will invite the young reader to ask about them. The short three to four page chapters make this a manageable first chapter book. It would be useful to have the pages numbered.
An added feature of Full Speed Ahead: Errol’s Bell Island Adventure is the inclusion of Errol’s website at errolthemouse.com. It includes activity pages for its readers, ‘cool facts’ about Bell Island and rodents, a video link and teachers’ worksheets that include a variety of activities to develop and enhance the child’s interest and reading skills.
Full Speed Ahead book provides its young audience with a motivating reading experience that can be ventured independently or with guidance. The story makes a great read-aloud and opens up wonderful discussion about adventures, geography and many other topics.
Janice Foster is a retired teacher and teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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