CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 7 . . . .November 25, 2005
David Sutherland’s Samantha Cardigan books are described by the publisher, Crabtree Publishing, as transition texts, moving children from “the first stages of reading toward chapter books.” They have funny stories with colourful, humourous illustrations. Chapters are appropriately short for beginning novel readers. These are beginning chapter books from the “Red Bananas” reading series, “the next level up from the “Blue Bananas” in the Bananas reading series.” These are very attractive and engaging books.
Samantha Cardigan and the Ghastly Twirling Sickness finds Samantha and her assistant, Rabbit, in an Asian mountain kingdom. There, she is asked by the Emperor to find the cause of a plague on the kingdom which causes people to twirl continuously. In Samantha Cardigan and the Genie’s Revenge, Samantha and Rabbit are in the desert where they are enlisted by a sheik to find out why his daughter has floated up into the sky and now must be kept tethered to the ground by a rope so she does not float away.
In each novel, Samantha and Rabbit search for clues and encounter characters that help them to solve the mysteries. Rabbit states the obvious to her, demonstrating to the reader that the most likely solution is probably the correct one. In each of these stories, while Samantha does all the detective work, Rabbit solves the mystery.
And children will certainly enjoy the presentation of these stories. Most pages open to a two-page full-colour illustration. The text is placed on this illustration in the manner of children’s picture books. Some of the text is placed in the illustration as word balloons. Other pages wrap text around illustrations. David Roberts’ illustrations are cartoonish and humourous. Children will enjoy the ghost wizard and the donkey in the Ghastly Twirling Sickness and the genie and the camels in The Genie’s Revenge.
Children will enjoy the humour of these stories. Sutherland’s humour is reminiscent of the "Captain Underpants" series. Examples include the name of the doctor (Doctor Inchbutt) in the Ghastly Twirling Sickness and Samantha’s mocking of the genie in the Genie’s Revenge (Samantha says that he is a "sissy pants" and that "[g]enie is a baby and wears a diaper.") This is the kind of humour that is slightly naughty but that kids love, and it draws them to the text.
Vocabulary used in these stores can be challenging, and it would be the capable seven-year-old who is able to handle one of these novels independently. These are beginning novels that will interest children with their stories and their illustrations, with a sense of humour directed squarely at the age for which they are written.
Robert Groberman is a grade two teacher at Kirkbride Elementary School in Surrey, BC.
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