CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 17 . . . .April 13, 2007
No Time Like the Past. (The Salt & Pepper Chronicles, #3).
David A. Poulsen.
Toronto, ON: Key Porter, 2007.
173 pp., pbk., $9.95.
Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.
Review by Marina Cohen.
"Uh…could we just back that up a second?" Pepper's voice was shaky…sort of like my knees. "That part about the water snakes…Are you telling us we're supposed to cross a river filled with water snakes?"
Lor smiled. "Only filled at night. During the day they usually sleep."
"Usually?" I repeated. I was as grossed out as Pepper. Actually, I was more than grossed out. I was terrified.
"Unless they are, as you say, stirred up."
"And what stirs them up?" Pepper asked.
"Movement in the water," Lor answered solemnly.
"As in crossing the river?" I said, mostly to myself.
"Once you begin to cross, do not stop and do not go back," Lor instructed. "The snakes are very stupid. They will go where you have already been to look for you. Keep going no matter what. Knock yourselves out."
Twelve-year-old Christine Bellamy, a.k.a. Salt, and her best friend, Pepper Mackenzie, team up once again to solve yet another intriguing mystery.
After winning first prize in an essay contest, the girls, along with Chris's annoying 11-year-old brother, Hal, take a trip to New Mexico where they take part in a real archeological dig near an ancient Anasazi cliff dwelling. To make matters even more interesting, one of the archeologists seems to have disappeared, and an oddly-dressed man keeps turning up unexpectedly.
When the team gets lost during a flash storm, they seek shelter in a cave where dry clothes, food and their favourite drinks mysteriously await them. After finding a sack filled with three rocks, Hal tosses the lot into the fire, and the group is whisked back in time a thousand years where they must solve a mystery and locate five missing Anasazi children. If they fail, they are to become human sacrifices.
In the third book in his series (see The Vampire's Visit and The Hunk Machine), David Poulsen once again presents readers with a first person narrative that is both quick-paced and humorous. Poulsen manages to strike a balance between humour, mystery and adventure while slipping in details of ancient Anasazi life.
The main characters are credible, the dialogue witty, and the narrative voice is nothing short of fun. The plot, however, seems, at times, contrived and is quite predictable. The team seems to escape danger without great challenge, and the reason as to why the Anasazi children were kidnapped in the first place is only superficially explained. As well, the character of ZaZan is underdeveloped leaving this reader wondering, if perhaps, he might resurface in a future novel.
It is also worth noting that there are several references in this novel that are dated and, for this reason, inaccessible to young readers. For example, references to films such as Conan the Barbarian and Back to the Future would most likely not be familiar to kids today.
No Time Like the Past will attract readers of the previous novels in the series as well as those simply looking for a light, enjoyable read.
Marina Cohen has a Master's Degree in French Literature from the University of Toronto and has been teaching in the York Region District School Board for 11 years. Her first novel, Shadow of the Moon, and its sequel, Trick of the Light, are scheduled to be released in the spring and fall of 2007.
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