________________ CM . . . . Volume I Number 16 . . . . September 29, 1995

cover Something Fishy at Macdonald Hall

Gordon Korman.
New York: Scholastic, 1996. 192pp, cloth, $17.99.
ISBN: 0-590-25521-5

Grades 4 - 8 / Ages 9 - 13.
Review by Janie Wilkins


And then the shadows moved.
Bruno and Boots both saw it at the same time. On the front lawn of the school, behind the old War of 1812 cannon, a lone figure emerging from the thicket.
"Let's go!" exclaimed Bruno. He set off at a gallop, Boots hot on his heels. The two boys descended like avenging angels on the front lawn of the school. They were about halfway to the cannon when the black-clad figure saw them coming. The silhouette bolted, running away from the lights of the Faculty Building and melting into the surrounding darkness.
"After him!" shouted Bruno. "Don't let him get away!"

Gordon Korman is back with another novel in his ever-popular "Macdonald Hall" series. Like the previous six Macdonald Hall novels, the plot again revolves around those infamous pranksters Bruno and Boots -- fun-loving best friends who are always finding ways to play a funny gag on someone or bend the rules of their school. Well, a new school year is beginning and the entire gang of regulars have returned to Macdonald Hall for another term of adventure and mayhem.

But this time the practical jokes quickly start to get out of hand, and it soon becomes evident that there is a phantom prankster on the loose who is intent on wreaking havoc on the campus. The phantom carries many of his jokes too far, and always leaves behind a single brown feather as a calling card.


Because of their previous antics, Bruno and Boots are prime suspects, and soon everyone assumes they are the "phantom." The pair realizes that the only way to prove their innocence is to catch the phantom in action.

Bruno and Boots enlist the help of their friends in solving the mystery and soon everyone becomes a suspect -- including Cathy and Diane from Miss Scrimmage's Finishing School for Young Ladies, and Boots's younger brother Edward.

In the end, finding the true identity of the phantom becomes crucial when it looks as if Mr. Sturgeon (the Headmaster, a.k.a. "The Fish") might expel the boys from their beloved school forever. The phantom's jokes have definitely gone too far . . . Can Bruno and Boots catch him in time, or is this the end of their days at Macdonald Hall?

As in other Korman novels, the plot is fast-paced with lots of hilarious twists and turns. Many of the pranks played by the phantom are outrageous or unique. Students will enjoy the humour and also the sense of mystery: there is enough suspense to keep the story interesting and the book is not as predictable as one might expect. And the ending, where the identity of the phantom is finally exposed, is indeed surprising.


Children and young adults can easily identify with the characters Korman has created. Most of them have both a sense of spunk and adventure and a blend of respect and irreverence for the adults in their life. Many of the characters -- especially the adults -- are stereotyped and one-dimensional, but they are characters the intended audience will enjoy.

Korman is a master at appealing to this audience; he can write at their level without writing down to them. Something Fishy at Macdonald Hall is ideal for students in the upper junior grades, but could just as easily be enjoyed by intermediate students looking for a quick, light read.

This novel would be a useful addition to any library or classroom as it will be a high-circulation item. But you might want to consider waiting a few months for the paperback version and then buying multiple copies: Korman has a large following and anything he writes is sure to be popular with his fans.


Janie Wilkins is currently on leave from her position as an elementary school teacher in Kingston, Ontario to earn a Masters of Library and Information Science from the University of Western Ontario.

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

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364