CM . . .
. Volume XVII Number 13. . . .November 26, 2010
T.R.’s Adventure at Angus the Wheeler’s.
Frank Macdonald. Illustrated by Virginia McCoy.
Sydney, NS: Cape Breton University Press, 2010.
65 pp., pbk., $14.95.
Grades 1-4 / Ages 6-9.
Review by Janice Foster.
As though he had heard Jennifer's voice, King Glug stepped around the barb-wire fence that he had built with a magic spell and stood looking up at the two children in the window. T.R. saw for the first time what had terrorized the rest.
Frank Macdonald, a celebrated Cape Breton author, wrote the story for T.R.'s Adventure at Angus the Wheeler's 20 years ago. It was written for a friend's son, Tom Ryan, for his eleventh birthday. Only recently was the story published by Cape Breton University Press, with colourful illustrations provided by painter and illustrator Virginia McCoy.
T.R.'s Adventure at Angus the Wheeler's combines reality with fantasy in a way that will grab the attention of the younger audience. It provides the reader with heroes and villains, magic, a dragon and strong characters. Recently quoted in the article "Macdonald and McCoy release new children's book" by The Inverness Oran, Frank Macdonald states, "I was looking for an adventure that didn't do too much damage to anyone." This gentler approach doesn't weaken the excitement of this epic adventure. Rather, it challenges the protagonist., T.R., to solve the problem of the evil King Glug without violence. This solution requires friends, cousins and siblings to work together even when the odds are against them.
Frank Macdonald weaves a tale of magic and excitement that will thrill any child with an adventure that would rival a television cartoon movie or a video game. With the reality of 10-year-old T.R. minding his young brothers, the Terrible Twins, and young Sunny James, the audience can relate to the thrill of the younger siblings when T.R. shares a secret with them – elves and fairies occupy the garden of their neighbour. When they discover that this is indeed true, they barely have time to enjoy this magic when they learn that their cousin Jennifer has been kidnapped by the evil King Glug and his hideous henchmen, the Gluks. Now they must rely on T.R. and his magic and go to Angus the Wheeler's abandoned farm to rescue Jennifer, battling the lobster-clawed King without falling under his spell. But T.R. realizes that he must use more than his magic of telling stories to his brothers against this dark villain.
T.R.'s Adventure at Angus the Wheeler's is written for young readers embarking on their first chapter books. It is also intended to be read aloud to young children, either by adults or by older siblings like T.R. in the story. The characters are based on real people from Inverness. The books is interspersed with full page and smaller colourful illustrations by artist Virginia McCoy. The stylized portrayal of the characters gives them a cartoon-like appearance. The cover and format of the book might not immediately capture young readers’ attention as they may be more familiar with the smaller paperback format for first chapter books. Also, the title of the story may not entice the young reader to select the book. Parents, teachers or librarians may need to introduce the story, perhaps reading the first chapter aloud, to pique the interest of the young reader. The amount of text on the longer page format might seems text heavy for some early readers. With this in mind,T.R.'s Adventure at Angus the Wheeler's might lend itself to shared reading between older and younger readers. It definitely makes an exciting read aloud.
Janice Foster is a retired teacher and teacher librarian in Winnipeg, MB,
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