________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 21 . . . .June 24, 2005


Morgan Makes a Splash. (First Novels, 28).

Ted Staunton. Illustrated by Bill Slavin.
Halifax, NS: Formac, 2004.
62 pp., pbk. & cl., $5.95 (pbk.) $14.95 (cl.).
ISBN 0-88780-622-8 (pbk.), ISBN 0-88780-623-6 (cl.).

Grade 1-3 / Ages 6-8.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.




And guess who else—surprise, surprise—is taking swimming? My mom drives us to the pool for our first lesson. Godzilla and I are not happy.

The pool is outside, in a park. The change room smells like old socks and cleaner. It is full of benches and lockers and big kids who are already wet. They're yelling and flicking towels and skidding around in the puddles. I sneak to a locker in the corner and try to hide behind the door while I change. I do it fast; I don't like changing in front of people. The floor feels slimy under my toes. I leave my T-shirt on.


Perceiving yourself as being too thin or too fat and having to expose that body to others is something that can cause great anxiety to people, both children and adults. In Morgan Makes a Splash, Morgan, who is chubby, is at his school class's end-of-year pool party where he is keeping his T-shirt on and avoiding going into the pool so as not to show "how much I jiggle." One of the party attendees is Aldeen Hummel whom Morgan characterizes as "the Godzilla of Grade Three." Aldeen is also avoiding the pool for reasons that are not evident. After an incident at the party reinforces Morgan's dislike of the bullying Aldeen, he then finds himself taking swimming lessons with Aldeen, the lessons being his mother's idea. At the pool, not only must Morgan avoid situations that will cause him to reveal his jiggly body, but he must also deal with towel snapping older boys and the fear of losing his trunks when he jumps into the pool. However, Morgan's biggest problem is Aldeen who has avoided putting her face in the water and who ultimately resorts to hiding outside the pool area during class time while "insisting" that Morgan check off her name on the attendance sheet "or you'll be cat food." When Morgan ultimately points out that Aldeen's subterfuge will be discovered at badge testing time, she relents, and, along with Morgan, passes her test. Staunton closes his text with a final bit of humour as Aldeen accidentally removes Morgan's trunks in the water.

     Given the short length of the books in the "First Novel" series, plot and character development are usually quite limited. Morgan Makes a Splash is a most positive exception to that generalization as readers get to know both principal characters and their motivations for behaviour. As is the series' usual practice, each of the book's 10 chapters is accompanied by a full page black and white cartoon-like illustration. Slavin's drawings truly capture both the action and the emotions of the happening being illustrated.

Highly Recommended.

Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in children's and YA literature at the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba.

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

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