________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 11 . . . . November 11, 2011


The BEDMAS Conspiracy.

Deborah Sherman.
Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2011.
172 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 978-1-55455-181-1.

Subject Headings:
Peer pressure-Juvenile fiction.
Self-perception-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.

Review by Todd Kyle.

*** /4



“Daniela, did you bring some tea with you?” I asked.

She didn’t answer.

“Daniela,” I repeated, “did you bring anything to help warm up your throat?”

She still didn’t answer.

“Fine,” I said, giving in. “Olaf, did you bring anything with you?”

“When I’m Olaf, I’m Olaf,” explained Daniela to the Z’s. To me she replied, “A thermos of warm tea made from imported Scandinavian herbs – a present from Sarah Hibbit.”

“Cool. Sludge, you’ve got all your equipment?”
“Yup,” he replied.

“Great. Z’s, did you remember your lucky blue and mauve guitar picks?”

The Z’s nodded in unison.

“Uh, and you, Hooperberg, do you have your, um...”

I was trying to be a bit nicer to him because he had helped me stay in the band.

“...do you have your triangle wand?”

With his classmates, 11-year-old Adam Margols starts a band called Sick on a School Day in order to compete in a school talent show. Adam, struggling in math, considers cheating on a test and is ratted out by awkward classmate Eldrick Hooperberg. Adam is given an ultimatum by his parents: pass math or quit the band. Adam reluctantly allows Eldrick to join the band, and Eldrick promptly starts writing songs to help Adam remember math formulas. The band’s singer, Daniela, disguises herself as Swedish exchange student “Olaf” to combat stage fright and creates her own fan club of screaming girls. As the band moves from the school to district competitions, the band struggles to keep Adam’s math marks up, to keep the school principal from exposing Olaf’s real identity, and to keep Adam and Eldrick from bickering. When Eldrick saves Adam by eating Limburger cheese given to Olaf by his fans as a taste of home, he and Adam salvage their friendship. The band changes its name to The BEDMAS Conspiracy (after an order-of-operations mnemonic) and wins the city competition where Daniela accidentally exposes her true identity in a wig accident.

      If the book sounds slightly convoluted, it is. But in the great tradition of middle-grade comic fiction – filled with mix-ups, coincidences, hyperbole, colourful characters, and a dash of familial angst – The BEDMAS Conspiracy does a satisfying job of keeping interest up and appealing to kids’ sense of their importance in the world. A few elements are not quite convincing – such as the ease with which the band members jam and write songs together, not to mention Daniela’s successful disguise as Olaf with just a wig and dark glasses. And why is the district talent competition referred to constantly as the District Donnybrook? But the send-up of teen stardom, of Justin Beiber-esque proportions, is entertaining, and the frequently-quoted song lyrics are just awkward enough to have been written by nerdy 11-year-olds. The book might even make a good sitcom.


Todd Kyle is the CEO of the Newmarket Public Library in Ontario and vice-chair of the board of directors of the Canadian Children’s Book Centre.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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