________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 5 . . . . October 29, 1999

cover Eerie McLeery. (Little Terror Series.)

Janet Burchett and Sara Vogler.
London, UK: Macmillan's Children's Books (Distributed in Canada by McClelland & Stewart Inc.), 1998.
98 pp., pbk., $6.99.
ISBN 0-330-36815-x.

Grades 3 - 5 / Ages 8 - 10.
Review by Joan C. Simpson.

* /4


"Over here, Sticky!" jeered George. "I've seen more frightening sticks in a box of matches."

This was too much for a cane with a reputation to defend. Thwacker turned from Flo and chased after George, cutting and slashing. George dodged round the stove, and then, to Miss McLeery's astonishment, ploughed straight through a whole line of desks as if they weren't there. It felt like running through bubble bath.

"Unruly ghoul!" shrieked the furious phantom. "Have you no respect for the furniture?"

"Funny thing," said George, stopping suddenly. "My mum's always saying that."

Thwacker skidded to a halt in mid-air and, before he knew what was happening, Miss. McLeery had knocked him aside.

"Useless piece of wood!" she barked. "I will do the job myself."

Thwacker mooched over to the corner for a good sulk. He was a fine young stick without a trace of woodworm, and his talents were being wasted. He hadn't had such a bad day since old McLeery had wielded him at Charlotte Bodger, missed and concussed him on the desk instead.

Eerie McLeery is the second in a projected six-book horror series by two British authors. George, the main character and only child of Sharren and Darren Brussell, lives in the old Victorian Little Frightly Manor. Unlike his parents, teacher and classmates, George can see the seven little Ghoulstine ghosts who live in the caravan on the manor grounds. Because he has been their companion throughout the summer, the little ghosts (The Little Terrors) decide to accompany him to school when it begins. Their classroom pranks are interrupted when a workman inadvertently releases a ghostly schoolmarm from her prison behind an old blackboard. Miss McLeery summons the little ghosts to her classroom, and George follows. She terrorizes them until George introduces her to a captivating computer game. Then George and The Little Terrors escape. Given the book's large print and less than 100 pages, one would expect it to be for young readers. However, occasional complex sentences, mature vocabulary including British terms (eg. queuing) and references to British history (eg. the Battle of Stamford Bridge, 1066, the Corn Laws) will make this book challenging for Canadian readers. The classroom setting is familiar and the plot plausible, although changes in influence of the ghostly characters are repeatedly explained by changes in "spectral essence." The appropriately named characters are poorly developed. Some are stereotypes, such as George's shrieking, insensitive mother, and Mary, the feisty blood-stained pirate. True to the genre, there are numerous examples of violence which will be of concern to some - "Wash your mouth out with carbolic soap" (p 49); "Flo and Maggot dived under desks and cowered in corners but couldn't avoid the stinging lashes." (p 64); "They began to tap and prod at the little ghosts' eyes and ears and poke up their noses, like a swarm of angry wasps." (p 71) The violence is relieved by humour especially in Miss McLeery's clever moralizing rhymes which are incorporated into her brutal lessons. A nice touch was encircling the page numbers in her bony fingers. Small humorous sketches scattered throughout the novel effectively interpret the action. Nevertheless, this book is not recommended for young Canadian readers.

Not recommended.

Joan Simpson is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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ISSN 1201-9364