________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 4. . . .September 25, 2009


The Island of Mad Scientists: Being an Excursion to the Wilds of Scotland, Involving Many Marvels of Experimental Invention, Pirates, a Heroic Cat, a Mechanical Man and a Monkey. (The Mad Misadventures of Emmaline and Rubberbones).

Howard Whitehorse. Illustrated by Bill Slavin.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2008.
262 pp., pbk. & hc., $7.95 (pbk.), $17.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55453-237-7 (pbk.),
ISBN 978-1-55453-236-0 (hc.).

Grades 6-9 / Ages 11-14.

Review by Tanya Boudreau.

*** /4



“Afternoon tea is served, Professor Bellbuckle.” Emmaline thought that the tall Sikh liked to see the professor make a fool of himself. Aunt Lucy was not at all pleased. “I’m not at all pleased,” she declared. “This is no way to start a nice restful holiday. Violence! Assault on a servant of Her Majesty’s government. Attempts to lie to someone bearing the lawful authority of the crown!”

She stopped and broke into a grin. “And that was just me!” Emmaline wasn’t certain whether her aunt was amused or mildly hysterical. Aunt Lucy continued in a more sober vein.

“Our plans have changed. I had hoped that we would sneak out of the country with a minimum of fuss so that the government- by which I mean that silly man and his department-would simply decide to forget about Princess Purnah. I mean, as long as she’s safe and warm and not kidnapped by Russian agents, why should they worry? But today’s, um, disagreement may have changed their views. Mr. Botts might well be capable of using the telephone to speak to his superiors, and they will put all sorts of obstacles in our way. Purnah, I do wish you hadn’t spoken quite so freely.”

The Island of Mad Scientists, the third in “The Mad Misadventures of Emmaline and Rubberbones” series, with the previous volumes being The Strictest School in the World and The Faceless Fiend. For the adventures in which the book’s characters find themselves enmeshed, they could blame Sherlock Holmes. It was his idea that they all run away. He knew Princess Purnah was still in danger. This is why Aunt Lucy, Professor Bellbuckle, Lal Singh, Emmaline and Robert decide it’s best to take Princess Purnah to Italy. But they never get to Italy. They arrive at the Island of Urgghh- but all at different times, and by different means. The island should be safe, as it’s inhabited by scientists, but overlooking the island is the Collector. He collects scientists (and runaway princesses if the price is right). He sees a spot in his alphabetized collection of scientists where Emmaline and Robert (two young aviation pioneers) will fit, and he has the spies and thugs to capture them. Robert is called Rubberbones because he is ‘indestruckable’ [sic], but on this trip, he will need the help of science and his friends.

internal art      Right now, the Collector has Dr. Freud, Van Helsing, and Nikola Telsa working in his dungeon. They are just three of the many scientists he has kidnapped. Next he wants 14-year old Emmaline Cayley and 12-year-old Robert “Rubberbones” Burns. Fortunately for the Collector, they are traveling to the island he spies on with his telescope. He wants Emmaline and Robert for his dungeon, but when he finds out they are traveling with a runaway student from the “most unpleasant” boarding school in the world, he decides he wants her too. If he catches her, he will be rewarded by the school authorities. It will be difficult to follow Emmaline, Robert and Princess Purnah (the runaway student) though because they are traveling with Aunt Lucy, Professor Bellbuckle and Lal Singh the butler. While with Professor Bellbuckle, Emmaline will find herself on a pirate ship dodging icebergs and exploding boilers. While with Aunt Lucy, Princess Purnah will be in disguise pretending to be a ghost. She’ll have to travel by train and then jump off ( while the train is doing thirty miles per hour) and befriend a tramp and his cat. The Collector will be happy to see that Robert makes it to the island first, but when Robert becomes friends with some of the other scientists, they teach him about the Transatlantic Passenger Catapult and an anti-gravity alloy. This information, when used properly with Professor Bellbuckle’s explosive skills, will ruin the Collector.

     The book’s time setting is over one hundred years in the past, and the location is around Scotland. The author has fun with the language, using Chiligriti when Princess Purnah speaks (Princess Purnah describing a suitcase that will not close: “cannot closing without squishy”) a Scottish accent when Mr. and Mrs. McGinnis speak, and pirate talk when the pirates (and their parrot) speak. Slavin’s black and white illustrations appear in almost every chapter. They illustrate dramatic or humorous moments in the story and help the reader better visualize the time period of the story and the personalities of the characters. The high wheel bicycle Princess Purnah is riding has a huge wheel in the front and a little wheel in the back, and Emmaline sees Queen Victoria riding through the mountains by carriage and horse. Readers will learn how Robert is feeling when they see him rise in the air with sticks of anti-gravity alloy under his arms, and how Samuel Soap (a man used to wearing disguises) feels wearing a maid uniform.

     Born in England, Howard Whitehouse graduated from the University of Warwick with a Bachelor of Arts degree and now lives in New York. Award-winning illustrator Bill Slavin studied cartooning and graphic story illustration at Sheridan College in Oakville, ON. His illustrations appear in several children’s books including Too Many Chickens! and Stanley’s Wild Ride. He lives in Ontario.

     The Island of Mad Scientists is a fun story in which readers can immerse themselves. The characters are kooky, and their adventures last right to the last page.


Tanya Boudreau is a librarian at the Cold Lake Public Library in Cold Lake, AB.

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

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