________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 25 . . . . March 1, 2013


Tagged. (Orca Soundings).

Eric Walters.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2013.
125 pp., pbk., hc., pdf & epub, $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-0167-7 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0168-4 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0169-1 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-0170-7 (epub).

Grades 8-11 / Ages 13-16.

Review by Chris Laurie.

***½ /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



"Then what about that billboard up there?" Oswald asked, pointing to a massive sign.

"What about it? She asked.

"Doesn't that infringe on my rights?"

"How? She demanded.

"Shouldn't I have the right not to be attacked by the product that they're trying to sell? They shouldn't be able to inflict their product on me as I drive along a public road," Oswald explained.

Obviously, she wasn't the only one who had been thinking about this.

"That's different," she said. "They paid for that sign. It's not even on public property."

"But I am. Even worse, they are sending that stupid message through public property, into my eyes, and trespassing on my brain. Public space belongs to everybody, not just those who have money."

"Again, very different. If you rent a space, you can put up your message," she said.

"Any message?" He asked. "Could I rent it and put up racist comments, or pornography or--"

Someone known only by the tag the "Wiz" is spray painting their art on public spaces. And after the mayor makes a presentation at the local high school, the graffiti (featuring thinly disguised caricatures of him) begins taking on increasingly political messaging.

      Ian and friends Julia and Oswald are enjoying looking at the murals as they appear around town. There are two new installations on display at the art gallery. At least until the art gallery notices they've been added to the collection. Rumors abound as to the identity of the guerilla artist. Clues will clearly lead astute readers to the Wiz's identity in this tightly plotted mystery. Ian begins to piece the clues together, and it isn't long before he finds himself hiding from the cops on top of a billboard in the middle of the night with paint on his hands!

      Who has decided to take on the mayor? As the art becomes more and more outrageous, the mayor and the police close in. But then a surprise twist causes the town to work together to protect their basic rights to free speech.

      This new addition to the "Orca Soundings" series for reluctant readers combines everyday, likeable characters in a contemporary setting with a fast-paced mystery. Despite the novel's brevity, Walters succeeds in creating believable characters with whom readers can readily identify. In addition to these winning elements, Walters includes engaging discussions on art history, what people consider art, and freedom of expression. As the trio browses the art gallery, they encounter pieces the Wiz has installed without the gallery's knowledge. "It's on the walls of a gallery, so it must be art," Oswald muses. "Fancy or not, it's still graffiti," fires back Julia. Their art teacher takes the class on a lively discovery of guerilla art that has been inserted in famous historical works of art as a form of political protest, concluding with contemporary forms including political cartoons, Doonesbury and The Simpsons. Great food for thought!

      Eric Walters began writing to entice his grade five students into becoming more interested in reading and writing. His novels have won numerous awards and have received honours from the Canadian Library Association Book Awards and UNESCO's international award for Literature in Service of Tolerance.

Highly Recommended.

Chris Laurie is an Outreach Librarian at Winnipeg Public Library in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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