________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 20 . . . . May 29, 2009

cover The Odds Get Even.

Natale Ghent.
Toronto, ON: HarperCollins, 2009.
199 pp., pbk., $14.99.
ISBN 978-1-55468-412-0.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Andrea Galbraith.

*** /4


Itchy’s pale face grew even paler. “Don’t I have a say in this? What if I don’t want to build a ghost detector?”

“First prize is five hundred dollars,” Squeak said. “I overheard Mr. Harvey telling Principal Loadman they’re increasing the prize money to encourage more students to enter the competition.”

Itchy’s face lit up.

“Then we’ll need hard facts for our convention entry,” Boney said. “We can do field research at the haunted mill once we build the Apparator.”

Itchy’s face fell. “Oh, great.” He kicked angrily at a stone on the sidewalk. It shot through the air, ricocheting loudly off the door of a shiny red convertible double-parked in front of the school.

Boney’s eyes widened. “Itchy… that’s Prisoner 95’s car you just dinged.”

“That’s the prisoner’s father’s car he just dinged,” Squeak corrected him, seconds before his Ghost Hunters magazine was snatched from his hands.

“What do you think you’re doing?” an angry voice demanded.

The Odds spun around and found themselves face to face with their mortal enemy, Larry Harry.

Itchy, Boney and Squeak are close friends who have little other than each other, their clubhouse, and dreams of victory at the school’s Invention Convention to keep their spirits up in the face of quirky home lives, unchecked bullying at school, and unsympathetic teachers. Squeak convinces his friends to help build an Apparator, or ghost-detecting device, for their Convention entry. They plan to test it at the old mill, which has the reputation for being haunted, and then use it to scare the bullies who are hounding them. A premature attempt to lure the bullies to the clubhouse for a fake ghost haunting backfire spectacularly on the Odds, but soon they have their device in working order. No time must be lost in testing it as gym class lacrosse is taking its toll on Itchy, with Larry Harry sending him injured to the nurse’s room after every class. When Larry Harry steals their Apparator, the boys fear their plans will be thwarted, but the final showdown at the Mill reveals the real identity of the ghost and ensures that not only will the boys win the Convention prize, but they will also have some revealing Polaroids of the frightened bullies to display.

    A ghost story where the ghost may or may not be for real, and is only a minor character, the novel, nevertheless, has a feel of gothic-lite appropriate for the target audience. It is set in the unspecified recent past in a small town with a canned-soup-crazy aunt with a bug phobia, an Elvis impersonator, and a sadistic whistle-chomping gym teacher known as Colonel R. The overblown minor characters add to the feeling of unreality of the novel suited to the ghost story genre. However, the central story is character-based and naturalistic, focusing on how the three friends prevail by sticking together and getting back at the school bullies by using brains rather than muscle.

    Itchy, Boney and Squeak are lovable geeks who, at age 11, are absolutely unaware of girls or other preoccupations of adolescence. Their characters and voices are distinct, and their resilience is satisfying. No matter what scrape they get into, the Odd Fellows’ loyalty to one another stays fixed, and they always find a way out of their troubles, even when it involves sewing 4000 sequins onto an Elvis costume.

    With lively prose written at an accessible but still challenging level, the novel is an addictive read. The simple plot can be followed even by younger readers, and although some of the events take the reader away from the main storyline, the entertaining and action-packed escapades are always enjoyable.


Andrea Galbraith is a librarian, writer, and parent living in Vancouver, BC.

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