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Allen Abel
Toronto, HarperCollins, 1992. 249pp, cloth, $24.95
ISBN 0-00-215786-1. CIP

Grades 11 and up/Ages 16 and up

Reviewed by Brenda Reed.

Volume 20 Number 6
1992 November

If you are in the market for a book that senior high school students will read and enjoy, you should consider this tremendous book by Alien Abel. Abel, formerly a reporter for "The Journal," tells the story of a twenty-seven-day assignment in 1991 to the Middle East. The plight of the Kurdish refugees and the horrors of the burning Kuwaiti oil wells are just two of the stories that are covered on the trip. The CBC team's attempts to produce a documentary on "Iran Today" Hz/led out because the producer was finally unable to obtain the necessary permission from Iranian authorities. In any case, Toronto called to say that "[t]hey want the Canadian fire fighters in the deserts of Kuwait. Iran is over."

If any of your students are considering journalism as a career, this book will make it clear to them just what TV journalism is all about. Abel describes both the frustration and the excitement of the job, and the reader quickly sees that for these documentary teams, their current assignment takes over their life. Still, although Abel points out the many disadvantages of his job, it is the romance of the journalist - daring to capture scenes and comments from exotic, often dangerous locations - that remains with us.

Readers will appreciate Abel's superb writing style and his wry sense of humour. His self-mockery makes him a thoroughly likeable narrator: "It's true I don't like the way 1 look on camera," he writes. "But then I don't like the way 1 look when I'm not on camera." This comic voice is balanced by Abel's sensitive recording of the tragedies he and his colleagues are covering. The destruc­tion of the land in Kuwait and the misery of the people in the mountains of Iran and Iraq are described with compassion. If these recent events come up in any social studies courses in your school this year, this book would be a good supplement to the curriculum. Abel is a master at bringing the common reader to the scene of momentous events.

For those who like to read about what goes on behind the scenes, this book provides plenty of drama. The plane trips, the hotels, the camera that breaks down, the scenes that are filmed and never shown, the large amount of cash the crews take with them (Abel had $6,075 in U.S. cash!), and the families who are left behind all add up to absorbing reading. The glimpse behind the TV reports this book gives us will make this one of the most popular books in the library this year.

I highly recommend this book for all senior high school collections.

Brenda Reed is the librarian at Bishop's College School in Lennoxville, Quebec.
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