CM . . .
. Volume XXIV Number 27. . . .March 16, 2018
Where’s Burgess? (Orca Echoes).
Laurie Elmquist. Illustrated by David Parkins.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2018.
80 pp., trade pbk., pdf & epub, $9.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-1478-3 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-1479-0 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-1480-6 (epub).
Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.
Review by Dorothea Wilson-Scorgie.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
My phone buzzes in my pocket. I turn back for home. Mom doesn’t like it when I’m late. She says that she, Hazel and I are all in this together. The three of us have to look out for each other. I liked it when Dad was here. He was good at looking after us. Dad always kept a baseball bat under the bed in case of intruders. I keep it under my bed now.
I open the door.
“Any luck?” asks Mom.
“I put up all the posters,” I say. “If a frog doesn’t want to be found, he’s good at blending in.”
From what seems like a simple story at the outset of the novel of a young, school-aged boy named Reece who’s lost his pet frog Burgess and encounters both the classic school bully and an odd friendship, the story slowly grows in depth and meaning as readers learn the significance of the missing frog and its connection with his father’s recent departure from the family. The sentimentality of the story creeps up on the reader which leaves remnants of both sadness and satisfaction as Reece advances in emotional maturity over his family’s changing circumstances.
For Laurie Elmquist, who holds a Master of Arts in Children’s Literature from the University of Windsor and teaches at Camosun College in Victoria, BC, this first foray into the early reader chapter book category is a successful one. Where’s Burgess? fits perfectly within the “Orca Echoes” series which features character-building stories. The vocabulary level is well within an acceptable range for burgeoning readers to read on their own; however, this book also has the potential to be shared between parents and children at bedtime or by a teacher as a classroom read-aloud.
The black-and-white illustrations by David Parkins, which are peppered throughout the short chapter book, add to the development of the story. At times, Parkins drawings infuse an element of humour that is not necessarily found in the text, like the dancing frogs at the start of each chapter. At other times, his illustrations emphasize the emotional context and create a layered understanding for the reader of the sentiments of peripheral characters.
Elmquist first got the idea for the lost frog Burgess from an actual missing frog poster on the ferry to Salt Spring Island. It’s an endearing fact that will no doubt leave many a young reader wondering about what ever happened to the real Burgess. Whether or not Burgess is still at large in British Columbia somewhere between Victoria and Salt Spring Island, a little bit of Burgess lives on with every reading of Elmquist’s story. For any child who has felt a sense of loss, unlike a frog desiring to blend in, this story is sure to stand out.
Dorothea Wilson-Scorgie has completed her MA degree in Children’s Literature at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and is currently pursuing an online MLIS degree at the University of Alberta. She is a member of the Victoria Children’s Literature Roundtable steering committee, works as a teacher-on-call, and resides in Victoria, BC, with her husband and their toddler son.
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