CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 41 . . . . June 22, 2018
Billy Stuart is an ordinary young raccoon who craves adventure! He does not have mystical powers, but he does experience some extraordinary adventures with his wonderful group of animal friends: Foxy (the fox), Musky (the skunk), Yeti (the weasel), Shifty (the chameleon) and FrouFrou (the dog). Billy Stuart lives a very busy life. He walks FrouFrou to earn some pocket money but struggles with the dog's obnoxious habits. When his neighbours go on a holiday to Europe, Billy becomes a permanent dog-sitter until they return. He now has to take FrouFrou with him wherever he goes. Billy is also a member of the Zintrepids scouting pack in which he takes a leadership role.
Billy admires and imitates his grandfather Virgil, but he is shocked when he gets a letter revealing that Virgil has found a passageway to travel through time. His grandfather is leaving for his "most important adventure" and wants to see Billy before he leaves. Unfortunately, Billy has a meeting of the Zintrepids scouting pack at exactly the same time! The pack travels through the forest on their way to the rendezvous with Billy's grandfather while singing the Zintrepids' anthem, "We are all marching toward adventure, proud and strong…" (p. 59) How will they deal with the challenges that they will face in the time travelling passageway?
Billy Stuart and the Zintrepids is the first book in a series by Alain M. Bergeron. Beginning in 1996, Bergeron collaborated with Quebecois artist Sampar to create the "Billy Stuart" series. This new edition from Orca was translated from the original French by Sophie B. Watson.
There is a lot to recommend in this chapter book for young readers. It is full of allusions to other exciting adventures such as the "Harry Potter" series and "The Golden Compass" series. Even Billy's hometown, Cavendish, is an allusion to L. M. Montgomery's wonderful Anne of Green Gables books. Billy may be an "ordinary raccoon", but he is an admirable hero. He has flaws, such as impatience and an overly vivid imagination; however, he is also brave, intelligent and adventurous! Readers will definitely enjoy his actions and reactions as he travels with his animal friends, the Zintrepids, through forests, caves and caverns!
The graphic features of the text are vivid and action-packed! Sampar's illustrations are full of bright colours and interesting details which add to the narrative. At times, the story is told in cartoon-like panels, sometimes without any text. It is a combination of the traditional and graphic novel format. Bergeron's text includes words highlighted in various colours, emphasizing their importance in the narrative. Despite the fact that most of the characters are animals, their animated facial expressions (as well as their words) provide readers with a lot of information about how they feel about various events. In addition to several puzzles for readers to solve, Bergeron adds text boxes in which he comments on the narrative from the writer's point of view.
Readers will definitely enjoy the adventure that Billy and his friends experience in this novel. The characters learn a great deal about survival, co-operation, friendship, communication, and caring. Although Billy Stuart and the Zintrepids will most likely be read independently, it will inspire discussion about topics such as: dealing with fears, communicating with others, respecting individual differences, and dealing with emergencies and safety issues. Readers will definitely look forward to more books in this updated series.
Myra Junyk, a literacy advocate and author, lives in Toronto, ON.
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