________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 18 . . . .May 12, 2006


The Hunk Machine. (The Salt & Pepper Chronicles #2).

David A. Poulsen.
Toronto, ON: Key Porter Books, 2006.
181 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 1-55263-723-9.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Laura Dodwell-Groves.

** /4



“I just heard on the news that they start shooting the movie in two weeks.”


“So, that means you didn’t see what you thought you saw, see?”

“What?” It isn’t always easy to follow Pepper.

“It couldn’t have been a zombie you saw in the house.” She made the word “zombie” sound like a product for treating athlete’s foot.

“There was something weird –” I began.

“I know, I know.” I could imagine her rolling her eyes on the other end of the line. “Damon Matthew, Hollywood hunk, with a metal plate screwed onto his head, and he didn’t look human.”

“Well, he didn’t.”


A film production crew descends on the small Alberta town of Riverbend, and, to get an audition, Pepper convinces best friend Christine (Salt) to go to the creepy house where the Director and main stars are staying. Christine quickly suspects that all is not well – as strange as movie stars might be, they are not usually like zombies or robots. It takes some ingenuity and the resentful help of Christine’s brother Hal to save Pepper from such a zombie fate and save the hapless town of Riverbend.

     This is the second book in David A. Poulsen’s "Salt & Pepper" series. However, I fear that fans of the first book, The Vampire’s Visit, may be disappointed with this sequel. The writing is still dynamic and funny. The banter between Salt and Pepper, and Salt and Hal, is witty and fast paced, but the storyline does not hold up to the weight of the main characters. The resolution (no end spoilers to follow) seems inevitable, unexciting and somewhat unbelievable to any discerning young reader.

     There is much frustration on my part because I feel that Poulsen’s writing style is highly accessible and enjoyable. There are some hilarious asides and expressions in his tone, as well as some groaningly satisfying puns (the names of the hunky actors, Damon Matthew and Brett Pittman, for example). However, there are also some dated references, which I think very few of today’s 10-year-old readers would grasp. References to the Back to the Future films, for example, the most recent of which was released in 1990.

     The three-page teaser of the third "Salt & Pepper Chronicle" (No Time Like the Past), had me more engaged than most of the last chapters of The Hunk Machine. David Poulsen has some wonderful characters and a wonderful voice, and I look forward to seeing them more gainfully employed.

Recommended with reservations.

Laura Dodwell-Groves is a Master of Children’s Literature student at the University of British Columbia.

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

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