CM . . . .
Volume VI Number 16 . . . . April 14, 2000
"Don't look down." Of course, I immediately lowered my head. I didn't see anything, just the water, or what appeared to be the water, though it seemed a slightly darker colour than usual. "It's just water, Dad." "No, it's not, Dylan." I peered down again. This time I saw it. An eye twice the size of the minke's was looking at me, and its stare was paralyzing. "Stay calm," Dad whispered. "What is it?" "A fin." Fin whales make minkes look like midgets. Imagine a fish the size of a Greyhound bus. Then imagine that bus floating a couple of kayak-lengths beneath you in a kilometre of water. He was so immense that I hadn't even noticed him at first. He was the water all around us.Part terrifying kayak adventure story, part thrilling mystery, part realistic fiction, The Mystery of Ireland's Eye will make middle school students laugh and keep them up late cowering under the covers with a flashlight (do kids still do this?) as they follow the plans and the kayak trip that Dylan takes with his hopelessly out-of-date parents to Ireland's Eye, an island off the coast of Newfoundland. Dylan's uneasy feeling that he must persuade his parents to take him along on the kayak trip across the Atlantic from Newfoundland to Ireland's Eye leads him to train to swim better, manage the kayak, do well in school and generally not put a foot wrong. His impressed parents do include him, and they are off on their trip, with Dylan suffering from nightmares of his dead grandfather whom he misses very much begging him to remember him. After a terrifying paddle through high waves, Dylan and his parents explore the island and the ghost town on it. Dylan begins to see things that really scare him such as a burning cigarette, his own name carved into an old school desk, ghostly figures at the windows of abandoned houses and the ghost of a long-dead boy. The mystery seems to be solved as a group of smugglers attack the family. Later, when the smugglers are caught, the only mystery that is not explained is the ghost who has helped Dylan deal with the death of his grandfather.
Dylan is an amusing character who will appeal to middle school readers as he goes about trying to convince his parents that he is capable. His self-deprecating humour and courage in the face of real and imagined danger make him a character that students will remember. Dylan's parents are supposedly from the 1960's. They seem a little out of it most of the time. If Dylan is twelve, it's hard to believe that his parents would be in their 50's and still capable of the strength to kayak through the Atlantic. The author depends on this connection with the '60's for much of the humour, and the time discrepancy may not be apparent to students. However, today's parents, born in the late "60's or '70's, do not use '60's slang. The burglars who are using Ireland's Eye as a place to stash their loot have authentic Newfoundland accents but seem to be too inept to have been successful at their trade; they approach stereotypes. It is hard to believe, also, that Dylan's parents or the police would let him talk to the captured burglars as the burglars explain to Dylan how they booby-trapped the island. Dylan's grandfather's hockey talk rings authentically, and the young reader who is interested in hockey stats will eat that part up. The setting of this book is lonely, mysterious and grim, even frightening. The ocean kayaking scenes are particularly vivid and will no doubt be burned into the minds of young readers. The empty, spooky atmosphere of the ghost town on an island out in the Atlantic lends itself well to the mystery in the story.
One of the difficulties with this book is that it tries to hit too many different genres. It is difficult to decide if it is a mystery, horror, a ghost story, or realistic fiction. The story of Dylan's preparations for the kayak trip and the subsequent trip over the forbidding Atlantic is story enough. It seems superfluous to then add on a mystery. That said, middle school readers will love many parts of this novel. Perhaps it is only the adult reader who will stumble over its structure, out of date slang and forced plot tidying up at the end.
Recommended with Reservations.
Joan Marshall is the teacher-librarian and enrichment facilitator at Henry G. Izatt Middle School in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association.
Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice
is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without
Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.