CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 2 . . . .September 15, 2006
Road Rage. (Sports Stories No. 85).
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2006.
116 pp., pbk. & cl., $8.95 (pbk.), $16.96 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55028-916-0 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55028-917-9 (cl.).
Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.
Review by Marina Cohen.
Matt had been excited about the possibility of the race, but the visit from the police about the missing book had shifted his focus.
“Eight kilometers is a long way,” said Ryan. “That’s like running five 1500-metre races and still having some left!”
Robert Maxwell announced his arrival by joining the conversation. “Too bad it’s not in miles,” he said, straight-faced. “Then there’d only be five to do. Much shorter.”
“Five miles instead of eight kilometers,” said Ryan. “That makes sense.”
A brash Grade Five kid came skipping down the hall. He half tripped over Ryan’s backpack.
“Watch your junk!” the kid said as he regained his feet.
“Slow down a bit, Gavin Richards,” said a teacher’s serious voice from somewhere up the hallway. Suddenly the hallways seemed to fill with children and babbling voices. Just before the bell rang, Gavy looked up at Matt.
“Somebody stole a book from the museum,” he said. “It’s worth millions and millions of dollars, and the police are all over, and it’s on TV and everything this morning.”
“Sure, sure, Gavin,” said Ryan, ruffling the boy’s hair.
“No, really, it was on TV this morning and the police said the book was really, really rare.”
“And it’s worth millions,” said Ryan with a smirk.
“Millions and millions,” replied Gavin. “Now I’m going to be a detective and solve this case.”
On a dare, Matt Thompson slips out of a field trip to the library to sneak off to the museum in search of a rare book written by runner, Alfie Shrubb. Matt is the last to handle the book before it goes missing, and, therefore, he becomes the subject of a police investigation.
Two weeks earlier, Matt had joined the Clarington Vikings Track Club. He was hoping to represent the club as a runner in the 8-kilometre Alfie Shrubb Run and is angry and disappointed to discover his coach, Tony Tuchuk, has signed the team up as volunteers, rather than participants, in the race.
Matt learns a valuable lesson when John Sargent, a former Olympic runner who has multiple sclerosis, pushes through the race regardless of the disease that makes walking, let alone running, a great challenge. Matt learns that winning isn’t everything as he is instrumental in helping Sargent cross the finish line.
In the end, the rare book is recovered, and Matt is exonerated of the crime.
In his novel, Road Rage, Bill Swan presents readers with a story full of positive messages. His characters are, for the most part, credible, though this reviewer found the dialogue and actions of the Grade Five, Gavin, to be closer to that of a much younger boy. The plot is linear, moving from the alleged theft of the rare book to its recovery.
Overall, the pace of the novel is quite slow. Though each well written, there are few actual running scenes. Swan presents the reader with an abundance of characters that have little, or nothing, to do with the overall plot. Matt’s older sister, Cathy-Marie, his girl friend, Ashley, his friends, Ryan and Baz—all have little to do with either the loss or recovery of the book or Matt’s learning to be selfless. Swan has also failed to layer his story with meaningful subplots. There is no real tension between Matt and his sister, other than a few typical sibling exchanges. There is no tension between Ryan and Matt. And even in the end, when Ashley is angry because Matt has not confided in her, this seems sudden and contrived.
As the third book in a series, Road Rage will be of interest to followers of the earlier novels as well as avid runners.
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 over 10 years.
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