________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 8 . . . . December 9, 2005


Leo’s Midnight Rescue. (First Novels, 53).

Louise Leblanc. Illustrated by Jules Prud’homme. Translated by Sarah Cummins.
Halifax, NS: Formac, 2004.
61 pp., pbk. & cl., $5.95 (pbk.) $14.95 (cl.).
ISBN 0-88780-640-6 (pbk.), ISBN 0-88780-641-4 (cl.).

Subject Headings:
Courage-Juvenile fiction.
Prejudices-Juvenile fiction.
Vampires-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 1-3 / Ages 6-8.

Review by Stacie Edgar.

***1/2 /4

There are over a dozen series within the “First Novel” series that focus on individual characters. Number fifty-three, Leo’s Midnight Rescue, is the third adventure in the Leo series written by the same author, Louise Leblanc, and follows Leo & Julio (1999) and Leo’s Poster Challenge (2003). The fast-paced action and suspenseful transitions between chapters make for a quick and entertaining read. This series does not address contemporary issues like the Maddie series does but follows the unorthodox friendship of the young boy Leo, his secret vampire friend Julio, and neighbourhood bully Butch McGee.

I have the coolest friend! His name is Julio Orasul and he’s a vampire. He lives with his parents in an underground apartment in the cemetery.

We keep in touch through messages that we leave for each other on my grandfather’s grave.

Unfortunately, we don’t get to see each other very often. Julio can’t go out during the day, because the sunlight would kill him. And we have to be careful. If people in town found out, the Orasul family would be in danger.

Leo and his friend Julio are back together again for more adventure. This time, not only is Julio in danger of the rising sun, but he has also disappeared! In Leo’s Midnight Rescue , the young boy must rely on his family and friends to find Julio after he rides off into the night shortly after Leo gives him a second-hand bicycle. Leo knows that his secret friend would not just take off as Julio and his family must conceal their identity and make their home in a crypt in the local cemetery. The urgency of the search is heightened by the newly formed vigilante group out to get Julio, a young vampire, and his parents Mr. and Mrs. Orasul.

     The escapade begins with Leo and Butch competing for Julio’s attention. Leo routinely leaves notes for Julio on his grandfather’s gravestone, but on this day, Butch interrupts him. It appears that he has the Orasuls’ best interest in mind when he suggests that they should reveal their identity so that they do not have to hide anymore. Leo interprets this as an attack on his friendship with Julio. Reluctantly, Leo accepts Butch’s help, and together they teach Julio to ride the bike, after which, he disappears.

     Not only does Butch help him find the runaway vampire, but Leo’s deceased grandfather also speaks to him from beyond the grave. The eerie voice acts as his conscience and encourages his grandson to be more open and willing to accept Butch’s friendship. Together, the boys search for their lost friend with Leo’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Orasul, and their friend, Mr. Applebaum. They finally find Julio at the home of the Goads whose son had also recently gone missing. With some quick thinking and the help of the mayor, the Orasul family manages to escape the rising sun and the angry mob to make it into the crypt before daylight—thanks to Leo and Butch.

     Louise Leblanc writes the story following the same format as others in the series—there are five short chapters; it is written in first-person narrative; the problem is revealed in the first chapter, and is then resolved in the final chapter. The black-and-white pencil-drawn illustrations by Jules Prud’homme support the text by depicting emotional characters that are both realistic and yet almost comic book-like in appearance. The only drawback to the text, which has a large amount of information packed into each short chapter, is the lack of some small details. For instance, the reader is left wondering what really happened to Mr. and Mrs. Goad’s son and what is being done to find him. Yet small details like these do not seem to take away from the entertaining story line.

Highly Recommended.

Stacie Edgar is a student in the Integrated B.A./B.Ed. Education program at the University of Winnipeg in Winnipeg, MB.


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