________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 20 . . . . June 6, 2002

cover Death Down Under. (Screech Owls, 15).

Roy MacGregor.
Toronto, ON: McClelland & Stewart, 2001.
124 pp., pbk., $5.99.
ISBN 0-7710-5644-3.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Helen Arkos.

*** /4


"The Australian Ice Hockey Federation, in an effort to promote minor hockey development in Australia, would like to extend an invitation to the Tamarack Screech Owls to come to Sydney, Australia, for the first-ever 'Oz Peewee Invitational.'"

The trip would coincide almost exactly with the March School Break. Travis's father had been surprised there was even ice in Australia, let alone a national ice hockey organization. Australia, Mr.Lindsay said, was probably the top sporting country in the world, but the sports they played were soccer and cricket and swimming and track-and-field and basketball. When a country was mostly desert, when the temperature on a bright January day could reach forty-eight degrees Celsius, well on the way to making ice boil, hockey was hardly the game that came to mind.

Death Down Under, book fifteen in the Screech Owl Series, is a blend of hockey action and mystery with just a touch of National Geographic. The Screech Owls are a Minor Hockey Association team from Canada who have been invited to play a series of exhibition games against their counterparts in Australia to increase the profile of ice-hockey. Coming from the land of snow and ice, the Canadians are treated as celebrities everywhere they go. Their hockey skills far surpass those of their opponents as would be expected. Recognizing that it is not very sportsmanlike to blow your hosts out of the water and in the interests of fair play, the teams' coaches compensate by doing a little mix and match with their players to even out the competition. The resulting hockey action, including the play of a Gretzky-esque young Australian, is much more dynamic.

     When they are not playing, the Screech Owls are kept busy touring the sights of Sydney and its surroundings. A mystery is unveiled during one of their visits to an Oceanarium where a recently captured Great White Shark regurgitates the contents of its stomach which include a human head. The ensuing investigation uncovers that the head was severed from its body, but not by the shark!

     Throughout the story, readers are also treated to a travelogue of Australian destinations and wildlife. Particular attention is paid to the various poisonous creatures that inhabit the land Down Under. The characters get a fairly in depth education on the plight of the Leafy Seadragon which ultimately also has a bearing on the solution of the mystery.

     Young readers looking for a sports story will not be disappointed and will be amused by the cast of individuals who make up the Screech Owls. Learning interesting facts about another part of the world is a bonus. That this book is part of a series will encourage readers to seek out other titles to see these characters in other situations and locations.


Helen Arkos is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364