CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 9 . . . .December 21, 2007
The Emperor Strikes Out. (Looney Bay All-Stars; 5).
Helaine Becker. Illustrated by Sampar.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2007.
65 pp., pbk., $5.99.
Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.
Review by Stacie Edgar.
Reese stared out the window. He tried to pay attention, he really did, but all he could think about was his mysterious, magical coin. The coin that seemed to bring people from other times to Looney Bay. The one that had somehow would up in the soccer bag of Seamus "Snotty" Snodgrass, Reese's arch-enemy from Trinity Bay Prep School.
I have to get that coin back! Reese seethed. Who knows what might happen if Seamus figures out what the coin can do?
Reese and the gang are back for another adventure. This time, Reese's rival, Seamus, has the magical time travel coin. As in previous episodes of "Looney Bay All-Stars," the impetus for time travel begins with the boys' current social studies lesson. In The Emperor Strikes Out, the topic of discussion is Ancient Rome. Their seemingly boring lesson is brought to life when the historical Colosseum is transported to Looney Bay, Newfoundland, right before their very eyes.
Unlike other popular novels, where the time travelers go back in time, in this series, the ancient characters are brought into the future. With the magical coin, the possessor brings the past into the present, but the coin does not return them. Consequently, all the characters that Reese and his buddies have encountered so far are now living in present day Newfoundland, a situation which makes for interesting interactions between characters.
In The Emperor Strikes Out, Salivacus and Drulicus, two Roman slave traders, capture Reese, Seamus, and their friends and throw them in the basement of the Colosseum. As they plead with the Romans to not throw them to the gladiators, Reese realizes that the ancient coin that Salivacus is nonchalantly flipping is identical to their coin. But Reese found his under a bench at the local hockey arena---the Roman brought it with him from the past! Magically, the two coins collide in mid-air and fuse together as one! Seamus is about to be fed to the Barbarian butchers, when Reese decides to plead with the guards in good old Canadian style. He explains that there are lots of fun things that Canadians like to do for entertainment---death and dismemberment not being part of them.
The group of young sports players convinces Salivacus to entertain the Emperor with a baseball game. Then they give the other slaves a crash course on the ins and outs of baseball. As the game begins, all is going well, when a wayward foul ball hits the Emperor Zero, "right between the eyes!" Always thinking quickly on his feet, Reese entertains the crowd – and the incensed Emperor – with the traditional Newfoundland tune "I's the B'y." Reese saves the kids' lives from the Emperor's whim, but the other slaves are to face the Barbarians.
As the gate is raised, the Vikings from the third installment, Vikings Have a Field Day, appear. Surprised to see that Reese and the other kids from Looney Bay are involved, they hold back and explain that, contrary to popular belief, Vikings are not barbarians. Next, the Vikings and the Roman slaves are walking away, arm in arm, into the sunset. It seems that the magical coin has a way of bringing out the best of ancient brutes – on Canadian soil.
This adventure for the kids from Looney Bay is as crazy and lively as the previous four installments, with just enough excitement to keep kids engaged and yet not be too far fetched. Young readers will enjoy the antics and suspense that Helaine Becker weaves into her text. She has the ability to take many loose threads within a story and the series and then intertwine them together to make a wonderfully entertaining text readers will surely enjoy. Illustrator Sampar creates black-and-white images that capture all the characters' humorous antics.
Readers who have been anticipating each new book in the series will be pleased to find out that installment #6, Egyptian Slam Dunk!, is on its way to the nearest book seller.
Stacie Edgar currently teaches in the Winnipeg School Division in Winnipeg, MB.
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