________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 18 . . . .May 13, 2005


Surviving Aunt Marsha.

Sofie Laguna.
New York, NY: Scholastic (Distributed in Canada by Scholastic Canada), 2005.
202 pp., cloth, $21.99.
ISBN 0-439-64485-2.

Subject Headings:
Brothers and sisters-Fiction.

Grades 3-6 / Ages 9-11.

Review by Pam Klassen-Dueck.

*1/2 / 4



"Kids," said Dad, sounding nervous, "your mother and I are going on our winter vacation, as you know, and this time—well, we're going to be gone for a bit longer than usual. We want to—we're going for—for, we want to go for three weeks. We want to go to Paris and—well—we've asked your Aunt Marsha to come and stay with you and—the good news is that she's said yes, that she'd love to—"

"Noooo!" We interrupted him with our three-at-once groan.

"And this time"—Mum looked at us hard with her eyebrows raised up—"you are going to make your Aunt Marsha feel welcome."


Siblings Tine, Vince, and Aidan have been left with disapproving Aunt Marsha by their parents for three weeks as they fly to Paris to rekindle their romance. Eleven-year-old Tine has been instructed by her parents to keep the household together in their absence. With a heavy sigh, she is doing just that, attempting to put a positive spin on every horrible thing that Aunt Marsha does to her and her brothers: everything from making them eat kidney pie and cabbage to throwing out Aidan's beloved comic book collection. As Aunt Marsha gets more and more bossy, Tine's positive outlook becomes harder and harder to maintain—until a near-tragedy plays on their aunt's phobia, bringing them close in a way they never thought possible.

     Surviving Aunt Marsha bounces along on an eleven-year-old's sense of humour and pathos; being left alone with their nasty aunt seems to be the end of the world to Tine and her brothers. The scene featuring the children attempting to swallow their aunt's nasty Bean-and-Cornflake-Pie, for instance, was not only funny, it was a reminder of how unendurable the concept of time seems to children when they are in the middle of an unpleasant situation.

     However, Surviving Aunt Marsha is not recommended because it was just a notch above dull. Its premise was too simple for its audience: parents go on vacation for three weeks, leaving the kids with a mean old aunt. In the end, of course, after her niece and nephews rescue her from their treehouse during a storm, Marsha realizes what a jerk she's been to her charges, and the rest of her trip is a pleasant time for her and the children. The plot and character changes are too simple for its audience; for example, the feelings of Marsha and the children toward each other were wrapped up too neatly to interest young readers.

     Perhaps the storyline would have been better suited for a picture book, in which the illustrations could have helped carry the plot. As it is, Surviving Aunt Marsha will not hold young readers' attention until the last page.

Not Recommended.

Pam Klassen-Dueck is a Grade 8 teacher at Gillis School in Tyndall, MB.

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

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ISSN 1201-9364
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