________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 21 . . . . June 21, 2002

cover A Weird Case of Super-goo. (Barnes and the Brains).

Kenneth Oppel. Illustrated by Sam Sisco.
Markham, ON: Scholastic Canada, 1996/2002.
57 pp., pbk., $4.99
ISBN 0-439-98793-8.

Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10.

Review by Gillian Richardson.

*** /4


Aunt Lillian rubbed some of the goo onto her cheek, then went back for more.

"Feels nice," she said. "I think we might have something here, Giles. I can already feel it soothing my skin. I can feel those wrinkles fading! Now, let's get some on those smile lines around the eyes. Ooooh, yes..."

She dabbed on more and more of the super-goo - until the pot was empty and her face was almost completely blue.

"Well, I feel pretty good about this, Giles. I really do."

"I don't mean to alarm you, Aunt Lillian," said Giles, "but you're beginning to glow."

Giles Barnes is the only one in his family who enjoys visits from Aunt Lillian, "a supernatural specialist." He never knows what she will get up to next. Her latest invention - super-goo - is supposed to be an anti-wrinkle cream, but it has an unexpected side effect. It makes her 11-years- old. Giles and his genius friends, Tina and Kevin Quark (The Brains), need a plan to return Aunt Lillian to adulthood.

     The short chapter format with an abundance of dialogue and quirky humour will attract newly independent and/or reluctant readers. As part of the "Barnes and the Brain" series which involves lightweight mysteries, the plot is brisk and zany. The initial conflict occurs between Giles and the Quarks over the orange hair Giles acquires after an experiment. Conflict then develops between the "young" Aunt Lillian and the rest of the Barnes family. Suspense is minimal, however, as the final result is predictable and the ending a bit flat; Giles reunites with the Quarks and Aunt Lillian is herself again.

     The character of Giles undergoes little development. His hair remains orange, but, in the end, he's willing to forgive and forget since Aunt Lillian's hair turns out the same and she sees it as a great money-making idea. The other adult characters are rather uninteresting. It may be that seeking a normal solution (going to see the doctor) to a "supernatural" problem is a difficult situation in which to present ordinary characters. It's believable (in the fantasy sense) to accept Giles' reactions to Aunt Lillian; somehow others' responses aren't as good a fit. However, the action, and the fact that it will appeal to "series" fans, is enough to draw the reader along.


Gillian Richardson, a former teacher-librarian and a published writer of children's fiction and nonfiction, lives in BC.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364