________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 4. . . .September 30, 2016


Maggie McGillicuddy’s Eye for Trouble.

Susan Hughes. Illustrated by Brooke Kerrigan.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2016.
32 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
ISBN 978-1-77138-291-5.

Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.

Review by Harriet Zaidman.

**** /4



Maggie McGillicuddy sat swinging and knitting on her porch, keeping an eye out for trouble.

(Trouble? Trouble here? Where all looked to be sleepy, snoring, ho-hum, boring? Well, you might not see it, but Maggie sure could. Oh, yes, there was plenty of trouble to be seen in this town, in this neighborhood, on this very street.)


Who says nothing ever happens in suburbia? Old Maggie McGillicuddy’s been keeping her eye on her street for decades, knitting up a storm while watching out for trouble from the swinging seat on her porch. Trouble there is, from tigers to slithery snakes to giant eagles. The trouble is, only Maggie has the imagination to see these dangerous intruders.

     Every master appreciates a young protégé, of course, so when young Charlie moves in next door, looking for trouble, as his mother says, Maggie rests assured that the next generation will take up her mantle.

     Susan Hughes has written a charming story that unites generations and celebrates the unfettered possibilities of imagination. It pays tribute to what appears to be “wasting time”, those valuable moments spent gazing at nothing, out of which come observations, ideas, stories, ambitions and experiments – not all of them immediately tangible, but which are motivating or useful at some point in life. Hughes proves that, even in the age of technology, old ways of doing something (watching the world go by) are just as important to a child’s development as they always have been.

     This is Hughes’ sixth book and second picture book. Earth to Audrey also extolled the virtues of pretending, when a boy reluctantly allows himself to befriend an oddball girl during a sleepy summer and finds a whole new world opening up to him through her. In Maggie McGillicuddy’s Eye for Trouble, Hughes’ playful text (“You see the eagle, don’t you? Well, that Frank didn’t! No imagination, I guess”) is enhanced by Brooke Kerrigan’s skilled and fanciful watercolour illustrations. Kerrigan (Wellington’s Rainy Day) paints what Maggie and Charlie see in their minds: Maggie’s striped cat casts a giant tiger shadow, an innocuous tree root is transformed into a dangerous snake, and Charlie fends off a herd of thirsty elephants and a sharp-toothed crocodile as he takes on the job of defending the neighbourhood.

     Maggie McGillicuddy’s Eye for Trouble explores the themes of boredom, imagination, the elderly and neighbourhoods, not to mention knitting, a hobby that can be pursued at the same time as “doing nothing” – check out Charlie’s new scarf! This picture book will make a lovely addition to a classroom or school library and would be a perfect book to be shared between a grandparent and a grandchild, offering a springboard for conversations about “what you did when you were a kid.”

Highly Recommended.

Harriet Zaidman 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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