________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 3 . . . . September 21, 2012


Mac in the City of Light.

Christopher Ward.
Toronto, ON: Dundurn, 2012.
194 pp., trade pbk, Epub & PDF, $12.99 (pbk.), $8.99 (Epub), $12.99 (PDF).
ISBN 978-1-45970-614-9 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-45970-616-3 (Epub), ISBN 978-1-45970-615-6 (PDF).

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.

Review by Lisa Doucet.

**½ /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



Airport. Waiting room. Plane. Luggage. Customs. Bus. Paris!!!

Most of a day and almost 6,000 miles later, I stood with Penelope and ten other girls from my advanced French class outside the student residence in the Latin Quarter that was to be our home for the next week. A stream of taxis and a blustery wind swept down the ancient boulevard. The whole street resembled one giant café. We didn't manage the "two straight lines" thing, but it still reminded me of an American version of Madeline and her posse. The school chaperone handed us off, a little too hastily, I thought, and disappeared into a nearby
brasserie for the first café crème of the rest of her life. Our Parisian tour guide, Mademoiselle Lesage, batted her eyelashes like Audrey Hepburn and spoke in a bird-like trill. "Les filles. Les filles! Girls! Bienvenue, welcome to Paris. Before we check you into your rooms, I want to say how excited I am to guide you on your architectural tour of the beauties of Paris. From the gothic majesty of Notre Dame to the breathtaking modernity of I.M. Pei's Louvre pyramid, we shall see it all..."

When Mac leaves her home in California to embark on a class trip to Paris, she has no way of knowing that there are sinister forces at work in the city and that she will soon find herself in the middle of their evil plans. Upon arriving in Paris, Mac has her best friend cover for her while she sets out to meet up with Rudee Daroo, an old friend of her father's who is now a cab driver. Through Rudee, she meets an interesting assortment of individuals, including his fellow cabbies and musician friends as well as the exotic and very mysterious Sashay D'Or, a beautiful dancer who is known as the queen of dreams. Mac also learns that one of Paris's most beloved monuments has recently been defaced, and Rudee shares with her his belief that the City of Light has somehow been getting darker. While Sashay had initially dismissed Rudee's suspicions and concerns, she, too, is now becoming anxious after overhearing a group of shady characters who have begun to gather at the nightclub where she works. Soon Mac is pretending to be an employee at the nightclub, Le Mouli D'Or, so she can eavesdrop on these men; she makes an unplanned trip through the sewer to do some investigating; and she ultimately unearths a plot to plunge all of Paris into a state of darkness. In the end, it falls to her, with the help of a most unexpected ally, to thwart the conspiracy that is afoot... before the end of her class trip!

      Mac in the City of Light is an action-packed tale that gives young readers an intriguing glimpse of Parisian life and culture. It features numerous colourful characters, including Rudee Daroo with his great passion for beets and his odd but amusing sayings, and villains who are satisfyingly malicious. The audience for whom the book is intended may also relish Mac's complete independence and her ability to so easily fool the chaperone of her class trip while she, herself, ventures confidently out on her own in a city that is completely foreign to her. This reader, however, found it difficult to accept a 14-year-old protagonist who virtually abandons her class and spends an entire week doing whatever she pleases in a city she doesn't know. However, young readers will not be deterred by such concerns and will enjoy Mac's resourcefulness and ingenuity in piecing together the pieces of this puzzle. The fact that Rudee's nemesis, the surly and unpleasant Blag, ends up becoming a more sympathetic character with a significant role to play is an interesting development in the plot. Unfortunately, however, the reasons behind the evil machinations and the terrible scheme to restore Paris to a state of darkness are murky and unclear. This story might satisfy youngsters who are looking for a light mystery but more sophisticated readers of the genre will wish for a more suspenseful and perhaps more believable tale.


Lisa Doucet is Co-Manager of Woozles Children's Bookstore in Halifax, NS.

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

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ISSN 1201-9364
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