________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 38. . . .May 31, 2013


A Narrow Escape. (The Lobster Chronicles).

Jessica Scott Kerrin.
Illustrated by Shelagh Armstrong.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2013.
132 pp., hardcover, $16.95.
ISBN 978-1-55453-642-9.

Grades 2-5 / Ages 7-10.

Review by Jonine Bergen.

**½ /4



Norris, despite the hot water he was in, took a moment to pull out his test from his pocket. His score, 16 out of 20, was underlined in red pen alongside a hand-drawn happy face. It was his best mark, ever! And he was a really lousy speller.

The worst, in fact. Of course, it helped that Norris had cheated off Ferguson. And Norris might have received a perfect score if Ferguson had not caught him and spent the rest of the quiz crouched over his own work in a giant huff. Ferguson, an expert speller, regularly scored 20 out of 20.


Norris Fowler is in trouble maybe. When the watering can he was holding knocked over Ms. Penfield's favourite cactus, the cactus crashed to the floor even though he valiantly tried to rescue it. Unfortunately, he has the scratches to prove it. So now he needs a cunning plan to hide the evidence and place the blame firmly elsewhere. When a giant lobster is caught, a plan starts coming together.

      So when Graeme's dad, the fisherman who caught the lobster, plans to auction it at the lobster festival in hopes of raising enough money to take Graeme on a trip to the Big Fish Aquarium, Norris realizes he may have found his patsy. Norris knows his father, who owns the cannery, will want to bid on the lobster, but Graeme does not know this.

     First, Norris convinces Graeme that he did not kill the plant. Instead, Norris insists, someone is trying to frame Graeme, and he proposes a deal. If Graeme investigates the list of suspects Norris gives him, Norris will convince his father to buy the lobster at the auction, thus ensuring Graeme's trip to the Big Fish Aquarium. At the right time, Norris will tell the suspects that Graeme is investigating them, thus turning their indignant anger toward Graeme and away from his original misdemeanour of killing the plant.

     This second installment of "The Lobster Chronicles" trilogy focuses on Norris' perspective of the events relating to the giant lobster. Norris is not a sympathetic character. He is a self-involved bully who has a long list of misdeeds. He steals food, cuts in line on the playground, and spends his time figuring out ways to get what he wants without considering how others feel. By telling the story through Norris' perspective, Kerrin helps the reader understand why Norris feels no remorse for his behaviour as he justifies his actions to himself. At the same time, Kerrin does provide enough clues for the reader to see that Norris is living in the shadow of an arrogant father who also does not understand how to fit into the community around him. By providing these glimpses, Kerrin helps the reader to recognize that Norris does want to fit in; he just does not know how.

     It is interesting how the same basic plot can be used to develop such different stories based on the choice of protagonist and his motivation. With his focus on marine biology and ecology, Graeme's tale in Lower the Trap was concerned with the fate of the lobster: should he be set free or become a trophy? A Narrow Escape focuses on finding a place for oneself in a community.



Jonine Bergen is a librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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