CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 3 . . . .September 28, 2007
Explorers Out of Bounds. (Looney Bay All Stars; 4).
Helaine Becker. Illustrated by Sampar.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2007.
67 pp., pbk., $5.99.
Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.
Review by Stacie Edgar.
"Listen to this, guys," said Randall. "In 1497, John Cabot became the first European explorer to set foot in Newfoundland. He was Italian, but he sailed under the English flag. He was looking for Asia, but he wound up here."
Reese, Darren and Randall had been given free time to work on their social studies project. They had gone out to the schoolyard to get started.
"Check this out," said Randall, pointing to the map in his book. "No one really knows where Cabot's ship landed. This dotted line shows the route they think he took. It goes right past this cove. That's us! Looney Bay!"
With the help of a mysterious coin, Reese McSkittles and his buddies are off on another adventure--this time with ancient explorer John Cabot. All it takes is for Reese to inadvertently rub the coin, and Cabot and his ship, the Matthew, appear in Looney Bay off the coast of Newfoundland. This is the fourth time the boys have summoned historical characters to present-day Canada. First it was Pirates, then Knights, and in the third novel in the series, Vikings came to Looney Bay. Unlike other time travel stories, all the characters stay in the present and create a variety of troubles. This time Randall, tired of being an unwilling participant in the adventures, hurls the coin into the bay. As a result, Reese, Darren, and Randall are transported back in time along with John Cabot, leaving his ship and her crew behind.
Back in 1498, the boys find Cabot and encounter a group of Beothuks, the original inhabitants of Newfoundland. Still in search for the magical gold coin, Reese realizes that the chief has found the shiny trinket in the water. Reese introduces the game of soccer to the Aboriginal Peoples and challenges them to a shootout to win the coin back. The young boys need the coin to return to present-day Looney Bay, and Cabot needs to get back to his ship. Reese invites Cabot, already familiar with the European version of the game, to play in goal. Upon winning the coin, they immediately transport back home where they once again lose track of the magical coin.
Similar to the other texts in the series, Looney Bay is beginning to get overcrowded with historical visitors. The Knights have set up a Medieval Faire and Jousting Fields to raise money to establish an amusement park. Cabot's crew and the Pirates play an exhibition game of soccer--with the Europeans winning and the Pirates, typical to their nature, being sore losers. Next, Reese's team and their arch rivals, the Marauders, led by Seamus Snodgrass, play a game. With Cabot's assistance on the field, Reese's team, the All Stars, wins. But this time, Seamus makes off with the magical coin, thereby inviting the reader to wonder about the next adventure in the series.
This new series by Helaine Becker combines Canadian historical fiction with energetic, sports-loving young characters. The introductory paragraph depicts Newfoundland's importance in Canadian and European history. The story goes on to describe the early Aboriginal tribe that was wiped out by the European explorers back in the 1500s. The text is somewhat didactic, yet Becker does not overly describe history in such a way that young readers may lose interest. In fact, the storyline may inspire the reader to search out nonfiction texts that would support the historical facts with more detail. Young inquirers may discover that the characters in the book treat the Aboriginal Peoples in a similar manner to the early explorers in that they trick them into playing an unfamiliar game in trade for the magical coin.
Becker has teamed up with illustrator Sampar to create likable characters who are depicted in sharp, detailed, black-and-white illustrations. There are many images to support the text so that young readers can gain an understanding of the historical figures' dress and demeanor. The short, suspenseful chapters pique the readers' interest and keep them yearning for the next installment. Also available in French, Looney Bay All Stars: Explorers Out of Bounds is fourth in the series, with number five, The Emperor Strikes Out! scheduled for release in the fall of 2007.
Stacie Edgar, recently graduated from the University of Winnipeg, currently teaches in the Winnipeg School Division.
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