________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 19 . . . . January 20, 2012


North Woods Poachers.

Max Elliot Anderson.
Concord, NC: Comfort Publishing, 2011.
146 pp., pbk., $13.99.
ISBN 978-1-936695-05-8.

Grades 4-6 / Ages 8-11.

Review by Yahong Chi.

* /4



"Andy, shouldn't we start back?" Sarah asked.

Andy took one look at his watch and ordered, "Quick, put all the tools and stuff in a pile. We can cover them with sticks and come back tomorrow to work on this place again."

By the time they did that, it was very dark. Now it was really important that Andy had a good sense of direction. I wonder where they would wind up if they can't find their way out of this place in the daytime? he thought.

After the final sticks and leaves were placed on the pile, they turned to leave. That's when Andy saw it. "Guys," he said in a trembling voice. "Look!"

The cousins peered through the forest as strange lights danced across their faces. "Get down," CJ ordered.

They just managed to drop to the ground before six all terrain vehicles came storming right pas where they were hiding and quickly disappeared deeper into the woods.

Andy Washburn is tired of the annual fishing trip his parents and his aunt, uncle and cousins always take. There's nothing to do in Dore Lake, Canada, that'll interest him or CJ, Andy's cousin, so the two boys are determined to make this trip different, more exciting. And they get their excitement, all right. What starts as an innocuous trip into the forest turns dangerous as they discover the new residents of a nearby lodge engaged in illegal behaviour.

     This novel may be short, but the underdeveloped writing style makes it anything but a quick read. Frequent telling when showing would be more appropriate keeps the reader from being drawn in; the tense slips from past to present and back again. The sterility of the voice is almost expected, given the work the writing needs. Readers are told upfront (on page one, in fact) that Andy is the athletic kid while CJ is the electronics go to guy, a contrasting foil technique that only ends up stereotyping the two. Dialogue between the kids and the adults sounds relatively genuine until Anderson uses it to stuff information into the story. As a result, the secondary characters don't end up anymore fleshed out than the protagonists.

     The plot would be intriguing save for the fact that the nature of the danger is foreshadowed by the third chapter with all the subtlety of a hammer. Taut moments in the plot are stretched out, then abruptly summarized in a fashion that cuts loose all the tension from the story, leaving only a puzzling bemusement behind ("'Run, CJ, run!' Tears streamed down Andy's cheeks. Never in his life had he been so scared. [Chapter 11] Somehow they made it back safely to Andy's cabin." p. 106, 107) A lack of credibility also leaves the story shaky; a tween boy could not possibly have created a radio transmitter that would be called "One of the best pieces of detective work I've ever seen" (p. 131) by a US special forces agent.

     North Woods Poachers is a substandard adventure finished off with a good dose of preachy morality for good measure.

Not recommended.

Yahong Chi is an Ottawa based reviewer and blogger at http://yahongchi.blogspot.com.

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

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