CM February 2, 
1996. Vol. 2, Number 16

image Maddie in Danger.

Louise Leblanc. Illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay.
Translated by Sarah Halifax Cummins from Sophie est en Danger.
Halifax, NS: Formac Publishing Ltd., 1995. 62pp, paper, $5.95 / boards, $14.95.
ISBN: 0-88780-306-7 (paper), 0-88780-307-5 (board).

Subject Headings:
Violence in motion pictures-Fiction.

Grades 3 - 5 / Ages 8 - 10.
Review by A. Edwardsson.


. . . what a nerd. I wondered if he might be too young to take part in my plan, On the other hand, I needed his help. "I hope you brought your money? We need it for my plan."
"A plan? For buying chips? No way! You buy your chips, I'll buy mine."
Grrr! I tell you, it takes a lot of patience to get what you want. Fortunately, I am a very patient person. "Not for buying chips, idiot! A plan for THE EXTERMINATOR."
"The film? But it was on TV last night. . . "
"We have a VCR! And the video store is right next door to the corner store, so . . ."
"You want to rent the video? But the clerk will never rent out a horror film to kids."
"I've already figured that out, I took Dad's video card from his dresser drawer. I'll tell the clerk that my father sent me down to rent the video for him."
"But . . . Gran won't let us watch it either. No way!"
Grrr! Patience, Maddie. That's what I told myself . . . "We'll watch it after Gran goes to bed. If she stays up late tonight, we'll watch it tomorrow night."

Maddie and her brother weren't allowed to watch a horror movie on TV Friday night, so she schemes to rent it while her parents are away for the weekend. The plan works, and she and Alexander sneak downstairs to watch several gory scenes . . . "The Exterminator grabbed a girl about my age and crushed her in his hands. All the blood ran out of her body. Her mother went mad with grief and threw herself on the Exterminator. He picked up his gun and sliced her up, drooling with pleasure."

Luckily, younger brother Julian wakes Gran, who turns the TV off and sends them to bed. The next day Gran heads to the video store and gives the clerk a piece of her mind. When the children have nightmares, she suggests they let the Exterminator sleep, and not allow him to "come alive."

"At school, no one mentioned having any nightmares, of course. But no one mentioned the Exterminator either. Even the leader of our gang, Patrick Walsh, didn't have anything to say about it. Usually he goes on and on about everything he's done, and buries us in swear words and insults. He makes us feel so small. That's why he's the leader." Maddie impresses the gang by telling how she tricked the store clerk, so they could rent and watch the movie.

Then someone dressed as the Exterminator threatens the group, telling Maddie to collect fifty dollars and deliver it to him at the park or else -- SLASH! Gran to the rescue again -- she unmasks Nicholas, the son of the owners of the corner store. Nicholas confesses he's being terrorized by a real gang called the Bald Eagles.

The police arrest the extortioners, and neighbours, friends, and police gather in Maddie's basement to discuss the events. "Nicholas suggested that I should be made the leader of the gang for having displayed such courage."

At this point, Maddie's parents return and she realises that their punishment "would be as bad as anything the Exterminator could dish out." She hopes they won't punish her if she explains "that I am already marked for life. I know I will never get used to violence, especially real violence."

Author Louise Leblanc tackles a topical subject -- kids and violence. Unfortunately, the fast-paced plot is somewhat convoluted, and while she raises the issue of gangs, she doesn't really address it.

Gran is a feisty character and comforting ally, but -- unbelievably -- she never reprimands any of the children for their bad behaviour. For example, when Maddie wants Nicholas to spill the beans, he:

wouldn't crack, no matter how much I threatened him. "I'll tell your dad you steal chips from his store. I thought you were my friend. You give me chips and then you --"
"Hey!" yelled Alexander. "You gave stolen chips to Maddie and not to me? How come?" . . . Gran stepped in.
"You won't get anything out of Nicholas with threats. I think he has already been terrorised enough."

And narrator Maddie's own character is disturbing -- she never seems to accept responsibility for her actions, and seldom differentiates right from wrong. When the clerk gives her the movie she muses that "he knew exactly what I was doing, but he rented this unbelievably violent film to me anyway. It's amazing. Honestly, some people have absolutely no conscience!" Hopefully the readers will read between the lines and draw a better conclusion.

Although Maddie rents the movie her parents forbade them to watch, in the end she does " `the right thing . . . what you should do if you're threatened. She wasn't afraid to tell someone.' " Still, her last-page conclusions about violence aren't convincing.

Fans of Maddie can find several other books about her in Formac Publishing's "First Novel" series. Marie-Louise Gay portrays Maddie in whimsical black and white illustrations, as a freckled, mop-haired eight- or nine-year-old, reminiscent of characters from her successful picture books like Angel and The Polar Bear. The watercolour cover shows Maddie and Alexander on the couch looking frightened.

With short engaging chapters, clear text, and a reading level of 2.5, this story may capture reluctant readers. Teachers searching for Canadian chapter books may also be interested.

Recommended with reservations.

A. Edwardsson is in charge of the Children's Department at a branch of the Winnipeg Public Library. She has a Bachelor of Education degree and a Child Care Worker III certification, and is a member of the Manitoba branch of the Canadian Authors' Association.

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Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364

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