CM March 15, 
1996. Vol. II, Number 22

image Video Rivals

Sonia Sarfati. Illustrated by Pierre Durand.
Translated by Sarah Cummins. Halifax, NS: Formac Publishing, 1995. 59pp, paper, $5.95.
ISBN: 0-88780-314-8.

Grades 3 - 4 / Ages 8 - 9.
Review by Leslie Millar.

**1/2 /4


"What's wrong?" asked Raphael. "Is it something serious?"
"No, but it sure is strange. Can you explain to me why there is a coin blocking the game? And why is this thing full of chewing gum?"
Raphael's eyes widened. Chewing gum? Chewing gum! Yes indeed, he could explain why there was chewing gum in his cartridge player. There was a certain person in his class at school who always had a wad of chewing gum in his mouth -- Damian!

image Sonia Sarfati is an award-winning journalist from Quebec who has written several children's books. In 1990, she won the Alvine-Belisle prize for best children's book. In Video Rivals she tells the story of Raphael, a new kid in school who has only one friend, Myriam. The school is holding a video game championship. Raphael figures if he enters and wins, he's bound to make some more friends.

However Raphael didn't count on his surly classmate Damian sticking gum in his cartridge player, preventing him from spending the weekend before the contest practicing. Raphael searches for alternative means to keep his fingers limber: playing piano; braiding his sister's hair; even learning how to knit. But when his game machine is fixed, he finds he's not any better.


Raphael initiates, then abandons, plans for revenge against Damian. As it turns out, when the contest day comes Raphael and Damian are in different age-groups, and so never have their show-down. Raphael finishes right behind his best friend Myriam, who takes first place. Damian finishes third in his age category. Raphael is pleased to have out-placed Damian, and mature enough to be pleased for Myriam.

Video Rivals will attract young readers because it deals with video games. The large print and short chapters cater to beginning readers, but vocabulary like "sheathed," "filed," and "uttered" will be difficult even for some fourth graders. The occasional black-and-white illustrations have an enjoyable comic-strip quality that reflects Pierre Durand's background as a cartoonist.

Having said that Video Rivals is current and in a readable format, there is little else to say. The account of Raphael's days before the championship is much like any weekend -- fairly hum-drum. And the importance of his quest for friends is lost somewhere in the wait for the championship. The events recounted are just stuff that happened. Either Raphael is not troubled enough to be interesting or the author has left too much to be inferred by the reader.

Video Rivals is a quick and easy read, but without much ambition.

Recommended with reservations.

Leslie Millar is a substitute teacher and volunteer in Winnipeg schools.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364