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


Maddie Surfs for Cyber Pals. (First Novels, 52).

Louise Leblanc. Illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay. Translated by Sarah Cummins.
Halifax, NS: Formac, 2004.
64 pp., pbk. & cl., $5.95 (pbk.) $14.95 (cl.).
ISBN 0-88780-639-2 (pbk.), ISBN 0-88780-638-4 (cl.).

Subject Headings:
Internet-Juvenile fiction.
Online chat groups - Juvenile fiction.

Grades 1-3 / Ages 6-8.

Review by Stacie Edgar.

***1/2 /4


“What is this racket at five in the morning? Back in your rooms, everyone.”

I protested, “Just let me explain—“

“No. Not another word,” said my mother, in that tone of voice that stops any response dead in its tracks.

We heard a shriek from above: “Waaaah!”

My little sister Angel-Baby had woken up. Now she wanted her mashed banana.

That was the last straw for my parents. The consequences came later: no computer for the entire weekend and strict rules for the rest of our lives. From now on, each of us would be allowed to use the computer for twenty minutes a day.

“And no more fighting,” declared my mother. “There will be no Internet wars in this house.”

“We’re not going to let you turn into zombies,” warned my dad. “Now, may I have the pleasure of seeing you go outside to play?”

The pleasure? It sounded more like an order!

Maddie’s parents might sound like they have entered the twenty-first century, but they are still a bit naive as to the dangerous characters who lurk online just waiting to prey on unsuspecting young adventurers like Maddie and her friends. At school, they compete to see who has gone to the best sites—some pretend to shop, while another does scientific research, and another learns how to build a bomb! Maddie gets hooked on a chatroom site and sneaks behind her parents’ back to have a secret rendezvous with the mysterious D’Artagnan who is named after one of the Three Musketeers.

     Maddie sees herself as a savvy surfer—she conceals her age, pretends to be thirteen, learns the secret code words that make up chatroom language, and she knows enough not to give her phone number out online. Even though her grandmother has been connected to the Internet before her parents and generously welcomes Maddie over for the weekend to escape her annoying brothers, the young newbie still sees her as a bore. In the end, it is her Gran who saves her from the perils of “Ali Baba’s cave.”

     Maddie’s grandmother confronts the young girl after her parents share their concern about their daughter’s moodiness and fallen grades. Just as she finally sees the light about the lies people tell online, Maddie’s friend Clementine reveals that she is to meet the infamous D’Artagnan after school. With the help of Gran, Maddie and Clementine unmask the lone crusader to find that all along it was their classmate Patrick. Maddie and her friends learn the hard truth about the Internet and, thanks to the adults in her life, they discover that navigating the World Wide Web should be a guarded adventure.

     Maddie Surfs for Cyber Pals is the fifty-second in the Formac “First Novel” series and is the thirteenth in the Maddie series written by Louise Leblanc. The author tackles topics concerned with common children’s issues such as Maddie Tries To Be Good (1999) and Maddie Wants New Clothes (2000). But Maddie Surfs for Cyber Pals addresses an important issue for too many of today’s young people—chatrooms on the Internet. Originally published in French and translated into English by Sarah Cummins, these small, easy-to-handle pocket-sized novels are an appropriate reading level for children between the ages of 6 and 9. The topic seems a bit advanced for a child in grade one or two, yet children in grades five and six could enjoy the entertaining adventures. Older struggling readers could also enjoy the topics as they develop their literacy skills. Illustrator Marie-Louise Gay captures Maddie’s sullen moods with black-and-white sketches shaded with gray watercolour.

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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