________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 17 . . . . April 18, 2008


Turf War. (HIP edge).

Alex Kropp.
Toronto, ON: HIP Books, 2008.
107 pp., pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 978-897039-29-8.

Grades 7-10 / Ages 12-15.

Review by Deborah Pethrick.

** /4

cover Turf War Teacher’s Guide.

Lori Jamison.
Toronto, ON: HIP Books, 2008.
20 pp., stapled, $5.95.



There was only the five of us. Sometimes the cops would try to paint us like we were some sort of gang. But we didn’t have any colors. We didn’t have any blood-in. Really, we were just a bunch of guys who liked hanging out together.…So when you don’t have money, what do you do? You hang out, smoke and crack jokes.
We didn’t even look much like a gang. No colors, no bandanas, no nothing. We weren’t like Crips or Bloods. We wore baggy jeans and T-shirts. Kasim had a leather jacket, but there was no need to look tough. We were only high school kids, after all.


Turf War is the story of five teens growing up in a less than desirable environment: Kasim who lives on his own and often doesn’t go to school; Mouse, small and pale; twins Sketch and Fish, whose house is where the group gathers because mom is never home; and Bruno who is quiet but a fighter. The Parkside gang from a rich school nearby challenges the boys to a fight in an effort to “clean up the neighbourhood.” Although they try to convince the Parkside gang they are not a gang, they feel they have no choice but to fight after Mouse is roughed up. Xana, a new girl at school and friend of the boys, knows the Parkside gang and warns the guys against fighting. She tells them the gang leader, Lex, fights to the finish and won’t fight fair. Still, they feel they have no choice, and they vote to fight. They prepare to fight, consider the use of weapons, and then decide for a clean fight. The fight starts clean but turns ugly. When police sirens are heard, they run. Another challenge is made by the Parkside gang. This time the fight degenerates and results in the death of one of the teens.

     Although a gang fight between schools is plausible, it is difficult to imagine a group of kids claiming not to be a gang would attempt to fight with a gang and even consider the notion of a clean fight. Some readers may identify with the lifestyles and living conditions to which the teens in this novel are subject. However, those that can identify will also find flaw with less than realistic “street talk.” On the positive side, the novel is short and quickly gets to the plot line with each chapter ending with a cliff-hanger. It is written with short, halting sentences and narration together with low vocabulary.

     Turf War would be a consideration for teens resistant to reading or even opening a book. The cover (a bullet hole through glass), the story line, length, and graphic illustrations are all pluses to encouraging reluctant students to read. However, once an interest in reading is obtained, books with more depth and complexity can be encouraged.

     The available teacher’s guide includes the features of the novel with suggestions on how to use it in a classroom setting. There is a plot synopsis for each chapter plus information about the author and illustrator. Readability notes are included. How to’s for introducing and teaching the novel include chunking of text, discussion points and graphic organizers. Incidental words and phrases are built-in, and a quiz on Turf War is also provided. Project suggestions are at the end of the book.

     Clearly laid out, easy to follow with very basic blackline masters, the teacher’s guide could be useful for those who do elect to teach Turf War.

Recommended with reservations.

Deborah Pethrick works in a K-9 school library in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364
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