________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 16 . . . .April 14, 2006


Fred and the Mysterious Letter. (First Novels, No. 57).

Marie-Danielle Croteau. Illustrated by Bruno St-Aubin. Translated by Sarah Cummins.
Halifax, NS: Formac, 2005.
61 pp., pbk. & cl., $5.95 (pbk.), $14.95 (cl.).
ISBN 0-88780-688-0 (pbk.), ISBN 0-88780-689-9 (cl.).

Subject Headings:
Grandmothers-Juvenile fiction.
Letter writing-Juvenile fiction.
Grandparent and child-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 1-3 / Ages 6-8.

Review by Lisa O’Hara.

*** /4



This story, by Marie-Danielle Croteau, tells the story of Fred, a boy with a big crush on a girl in his class. The object of his crush, Lola, moves away without ever giving any sign of interest in Fred, leaving him devastated. Because he is so besotted, his parents begin to worry that something is wrong with him, and they send him off to Vancouver to visit his grandmother and clear his head. His grandmother sympathizes with him and tells him the story of a sister who died young and was a "shooting star" that couldn't be tied down, perhaps like Lola.

     This isn't a mushy love story though by any means. Fred is very funny and describes how being in love made him absent-minded:

I practically knocked over a kid from kindergarten with my backpack. In the cafeteria, I emptied my tray into a plant pot instead of the garbage can. My parents were worried to see me so frazzled. So they sent me to Vancouver to give me a change of scene.

     After a letter from Lola is forwarded from home, Fred hides it under his pillow to read later while he is going shopping for umbrellas with his grandmother. In the meantime, his cat tears up his room and the letter, leaving it covered in toothpaste and in little bits. Fred is left with no choice but to piece it together, an action which leads to a very strange communication from Lola. Finally, with some help from his grandmother, he makes sense of the letter and gets to find out what Lola wanted to tell him.

     Early readers will probably enjoy the humor in this book. The grandmother's story about her sister doesn't seem to fit in with the rest of the story and might lead the reader to think this is going to be a far more serious story than it is.

     Bruno St-Aubin's illustrations are delightful and are perfect for a first novel – not too numerous but very well-chosen and placed. They match the humorous tone of most of the story and are sure to please.


Lisa O'Hara is a mother of three and a librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

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