CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 38. . . . June 1, 2018
Canadian Survival. (Countdown to Danger).
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2018.
139 pp., trade pbk. & ebook, $7.99 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4431-6330-9 (pbk,), ISBN 978-1-4431-6631-6 (ebook).
Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.
Review by Karen Rankin.
Your canoe scrapes to a halt against the rocky shore of a small lake. You wobble unsteadily out of the boat and wipe a smear of sweat from your brow. You’re just steps away from a thick forest. Beyond that, a towering ring of jagged mountains surrounds you. It’s like an advertisement for the Rockies.
But then reality sinks in.
You let out a shaky breath and turn around. Doubled over in the back of the canoe is Prisha Singh. She’s looking pale and a thick stream of blood oozes from a wound in her head.
She was your guide on Camp Aquila’s annual canoe trip, but it’s all gone wrong.
Now you’re lost and separated from the rest of your cabin. You hadn’t counted on those rapids. Why hadn’t Prisha warned you?
“Prisha,” you say, but she doesn’t respond. You reach forward and gently pull her back. She lets out a whimper, and that’s when you realize how badly hurt she is.
“Prisha,” you say again, and she opens her eyes. “Why did we take those rapids? You never prepped us for them. We didn’t even have the proper gear.”
“We had to take the fork in the river,” she mumbles. “We were in danger. We were being…followed.”
You narrow your eyes. “Followed? What are you talking about?”
“By…” she starts, but she’s already shaking her head in disbelief. “By some kind of animal,” she says.
You’re about to laugh like this is some kind of weird joke but that’s when you hear something in the woods. Is it a grunting sound? It’s coming from someone. Or something. It can’t be very far away, either. And whatever it is, it sounds BIG. You’re going to need help, and fast. When the rest of your group notices you’re missing, they’ll be looking for you, but who knows how long it will take them to find you out here. Prisha doesn’t look like she’s going to hold out much longer without medical assistance.
You’re on your own now.
Canadian Survival is part of Scholastic’s “Countdown to Danger” interactive series in which readers – the books’ protagonists, or you - make their own plot choices, thereby determining whether they “live or die”. Canadian Survival encourages you to find all 11 ways in which, if you make the correct choices, “YOU SURVIVED!” Prisha has faked her accident because she is “with an organization that stops companies and governments from harming nature.” Right now, she and a colleague are intent on destroying a company that creates and sells “weaponized animals”, such as beavers, wolverines, and salmon. Thorough readers will discover that, in some situations, Prisha and her colleague will sacrifice or even murder you in order to complete their mission. In other scenarios, you may find yourself being rescued by Prisha on a hang-glider or by leaping onto a rope-ladder dangled from her organization’s helicopter. Depending on your choices, you may – amongst other things – also find yourself driving a jet ski, being saved from a grizzly bear by a sasquatch, dying from blood loss due to giant mosquitoes, turned into a sasquatch, attacked by remote-controlled wolverines, or becoming an aquatic creature.
While there is virtually no character development in Canadian Survival, every scenario is action-packed and the pace is breathtaking. At first, this skeptical reader hit “THE END. To try again, go back to …” after making only four (obviously) poor choices that resulted in being pushed off the edge of a cliff by Prisha. I was hooked after that.
Author Szpirglas’s imagination goes into overdrive with descriptions of the evil scientists’ “freakish hybrids” as well as the things you have to do in order to survive. Canadian Survival also includes a lot of good vocabulary- building words, as per the following example:
The pressure in the tunnel changes.
The whole ventilation shaft vibrates and hums with energy, and you feel a massive pull against your body.
Canadian Survival is an especially good choice for reluctant readers, even those ages 12 to 14.
Karen Rankin is a Toronto, ON, teacher and writer of children’s stories.
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