CM . . .
. Volume XVI Number 2. . . .September 11, 2009
Bio-pirate. (Orca Currents).
Michele Martin Bossley.
Victoria, BC: Orca Books, 2008.
109 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55143-893-1 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55143-895-5 (hc.).
Detective and mystery stories.
Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.
Review by Carole Marion.
Trevor thinks it's cool to spend part of his summer holidays before starting grade 8 in a university day camp with his cousin, Nick, and friend, Robyn. The only setback is know-it-all Nola whose passionate diatribes against medical research using carob beans is off-putting to the day camp instructor, Meredith, and even Nola's own father, a professor in the Faculty of Medicine.
"I can't believe Meredith, can you?" Nola said, once the van had hit the main roadway. "I mean, really. She was so snotty today, don't you think?"
"Um, well," I said.
"The thing is I'm totally right about this. Bio-piracy is a real issue, and it needs to stop. I'm thinking about organizing a rally."
"Uh, not to sound stupid or anything," Robyn said. "But what exactly are you talking about? What is bio-piracy?"
"I already told you. Weren't you listening?" Nola snapped. "It's when selfish researchers take natural resources and information about traditional remedies from people in developing countries. Big drug companies market the medicines for tons of cash, and then the people who made the medicines in the first place don't get anything."
Dr. Pierce held up his hand. "Nola, you know I agree with you. There have been some terrible instances where people have been taken advantage of. But most research is done for the public good. You need to be careful about these accusations."
Nola just frowned. I cleared my throat and changed the subject. "So, uh, Dr. Pierce ...," I began. "Have you been teaching at the university for very long?"
"More than fifteen years, now. I've seen a lot of changes, that's for sure."
"You mean to the campus?" Robyn asked.
"Well, that too," Dr. Pierce admitted. "But no, I mean to the advances in medical science. The research is fascinating... Are you considering a career in the medical field?"
"Uh, I'm not really sure yet," Robyn answered. "But maybe."
"Well, you have to work very hard and be prepared for setbacks along the way. Sometimes things happen that aren't your fault, but you have to deal with them anyway." Dr. Pierce scowled at the road in front of him.
"Sounds like something went wrong today," Nola said.
Her father sighed. "One of our doctoral students has been experimenting with a new plant-derived drug that affected certain cancer cells. It was very promising research, but some of the notes have gone missing, and obviously it's very difficult to replicate."
"Where were the plants from this time?" Nola sat up and glared at her father. "And how much more will you have to get in order to redo the research?"
"Nola, please," Dr. Pierce said. "It's been a long day, and the last thing I want is to get into a debate over this again."
As Trevor evacuates the lab with the rest of the day camp students following a robotic mishap, he spots a man with a scruffy goatee, a nose ring and a tattoo on his upper arm hiding in one of the offices—a man that Trevor later recognizes as someone carrying file boxes in the basement of a house close to Robyn's home, files stamped with Faculty of Medicine. Could these be the missing research files?
This mystery involving a shady graduate student and a vengeful activist is right up the alley for the amateur sleuths who first appeared in Cracked and Swiped, the first two instalments in the "Orca Currents" series. Everyone but the sleuths becomes a suspect in this brief, easy-to-read story: Nola, her father, Meredith, certainly Tattoo Guy. And the ending makes the reader realize that right and wrong frequently have shades of grey.
Carole Marion is the customer service manager of a Calgary Public Library branch. A former youth librarian, she has been working with children, parents and educators for over 20 years.
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