________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 17 . . . . April 29, 2005


Action! (Rosie: Book Three).

Carol Matas.
Toronto, ON: Key Porter, 2005.
128 pp., pbk., $14.95.
ISBN 1-55263-678-X.

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.

Review by Stacie Edgar.

**** /4



I hadn't been able to believe my eyes since we'd arrived in California. I remember when the train drew near Los Angeles, I saw the orange trees. Trees with fruit growing on them! Honestly, I had believed that fruit grew in boxes in the peddlers' pushcarts on Maxwell Street in Chicago or Orchard Street in New York. And the flowers! Everywhere there was a riot of color. Then when we disembarked, I marveled at the heat of the sun and the blue skies in January! I felt like I was dreaming.

Upon arriving in Los Angeles, young Rosie Lepidus, filled with excitement and anticipation describes the sights and sounds of the new city as she and her family prepares to make their newest film--a Western. Yet, shortly after their arrival, they realize that being Jewish and in the movie business are two strikes against them. During this time in history, these two characteristics made them outcasts, and, after much deliberation, the family decides to change its name to Lake and move into the district known as Hollywood.

     The compelling characters in Carol Matas' newest addition to her "Rosie" series challenge many stereotypical barriers of the times. Not only are they Jewish filmmakers, but in their previous movies, young Rosie has been dressed as a boy who, by the end of the film, is revealed as a girl, much to the audience's surprise. Rosie seems to inherit her liberated spirit from her mother who finds time to attend women's activist meetings:

Often Mama left me in charge while she went to suffragette meetings. An important vote was coming up in California, and Mama, just as she had in New York and Chicago, was working hard for women to gain the right to vote.

     Although this book can be didactic in many ways--from the liberation of women's rights to the discrimination of Jews to the start of the film making industry--it is also an entertaining story with likable characters and suspense, and it culminates with all the different threads coming together for a happy ending.

     To make his newest film truly authentic, Rosie's father hires a genuine Wild West show to perform as the actors in his Western. But disaster occurs when Rosie accidentally spooks a horse and the lead trick rider, the Cowboy King, is injured. It is left up to his son, Zach, to take his place in the film. Immediately, the personalities of the two characters collide as Zach attempts to teach Rosie to ride a horse for her part in the film. While the two are practicing, Abe, one of Rosie's younger brothers, leaves the gate to the corral open, and two horses gallop into the nearby hills. Zach runs after the horses, and Rosie, driven by her own guilt, quickly follows him into the unknown territory of the Santa Monica Mountains.

     Rosie and Zach eventually get lost in the fog chasing after the horses. With no food or water, the two spend the night under the branch of a fallen tree after narrowly escaping a hungry mountain lion. When it comes time for them to make their escape, Rosie is frozen with fear:

I was so still and cold I could barely move. When I did, everything hurt. I looked at my hands in the pale gray light. They were ripped and scabbed. I was so thirsty my throat hurt, and I was starving. But I was not going out there. No matter what. Zach peeked out from under the tree branch. He went farther and farther until he was completely out in the open, leaving me inside, protected. I realized that he was using himself as bait. If the cat was still there, it would pounce on him.

"It's safe, Rosie," he said. "Come out."

"No," I said. "You don't know it's safe. Come back in."

"I can't, Rosie. We need to find water. And shelter."

"We have shelter," I said stubbornly.

"Rosie, you have to trust me."

     Throughout the novel, Rosie dreams of a Jewish cowboy who talks to her and offers gentle guidance. He is the one who gives her the courage to come out of her hiding place. Yet, just as she does this, she and Zach come across horse thieves. They have captured the lost horses and scheme to steal all the other horses back at the ranch. Rosie and Zach manage to ride the horses back to warn the others of the thieves before they are able to get away with the show's horses. But, in a quick turn of events, the thieves are able to take Rosie, her mother, and siblings hostage. With the help of Zach and his father, the Cowboy King, they are able to apprehend the thieves and prevent disaster once again.

     Zach and Rosie who, throughout the book are at odds with one another, become good friends as they support each other through their ordeal in the mountains and back at the ranch. Rosie's father decides that, because of limited time, the two youngsters' adventure would be a perfect story for his film. Rosie helps Zach overcome his fear of getting back on a horse again, and, in one quick afternoon, their adventure becomes the plot of the next Hollywood Western.

     Internationally acclaimed Canadian author, Carol Matas' newest addition to her "Rosie" series is an action-packed adventure sure to be enjoyed by boys and girls. Action! is historical fiction that follows Rosie in New York City: Gotcha and Rosie in Chicago: Play Ball! The trilogy describes the exciting life of a young girl whose family travels across America at the turn of the century. The fast-moving first-person narrative of the red-haired Rosie portrays a headstrong young girl who doesn't take no for an answer to anything, especially if it gets in her way of fulfilling her dream of being a famous actress. Yet, Matas has balanced her character by depicting an obedient daughter and a concerned and caring friend. Rosie and Zach support each other to overcome the fears that hold them back. Matas has crafted another splendidly entertaining novel whose characters are sure to win the hearts of her loyal readers.

Highly Recommended.

Stacie Edgar is a student in the Integrated B.A./B.Ed. Education program at the University of Winnipeg in Manitoba.

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

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