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

Menace and Mischief.

Sylvia Gunnery.
Toronto, ON: Stoddart Publishing Co. (Distributed by General Distribution Services), 1999.
109 pp., pbk., $6.99.
ISBN 0-7736-7477-2.

Grades 5 - 7 / Ages 10 - 12.
Review by Harriet Zaidman.

**** /4


It was dark in the empty classrooms and hallways of Haliburton Junior High. Too dark to see the clock on the wall of Mr. Saunders' classroom. It was 2:38 a.m. Hobo stepped into her exercise wheel and ran. She ran uphill, up, up, and up, getting nowhere. She might've been thinking about how frustrating this was, or she might've been imagining racing up knolls and slopes of a forest. Or she might not have been thinking at all.
Down through the blackness of the hall and around the corner was the science lab. There, in a glass cage, was Ms Harrison's pet boa constrictor, Miss Hiss, thick and still, curled warmly against herself. A dream rippled the scales of her beautifully patterned skin.
     It's always a pleasure to discover a young adult book that deals with an important teen issue and is also an example of high quality writing. Such is the case with Menace and Mischief by popular Nova Scotia author Sylvia Gunnery. This is a book that provides a young reader with humorous situations, serious issues and conflict resolution in the plot, as well as crafted writing skills to suit the plot developments. C.J. and Raymond are two boys who both yearn for the heart of Julie, a classmate in Grade 7. Wilson, a developing bully in Grade 9, also likes her and decides to eliminate the competition. Wilson's intimidation techniques result in serious injury to Raymond. A humorous subplot involving two teachers, a missing hamster and a python adds interesting twists to the junior high situation. After the crisis is resolved, Gunnery includes a plausible epilogue that informs the reader about what happened to the characters in later years.
     Gunnery presents the subplots through short vignettes that are funny and intriguing. They provide a picture of the junior high setting. The main plot also includes humour, but when it comes to the serious issues, Gunnery writes directly and honestly. The issue of bullying and the consequences it has on everyone involved is portrayed through Raymond's reflections about what is happening to him, through Raymond's parents and through Wilson's realization about what kind or person he is becoming. The seriousness of the crisis is reflected in the excellent prose that makes this situation very real:
What can a mom think as she sits so quietly beside her child, when the only life she can detect is in the fragile warmth of his hands and the shallow breathing in and out? A flicker of light on a machine is no comfort.

     Young adolescents would be attracted to read Menace and Mischief. The book provides them with the opportunity to think through important teen issues they may experience in junior high and high school.

Highly recommended.

Harriet Zaidman 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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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364