________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 4 . . . . October 19, 2001

cover Jan's Awesome Party. (First Novels. The New Series).

Monica Hughes. Illustrated by Carlos Freire.
Halifax, NS: Formac, 2001.
57 pp., pbk. & cloth, $5.95 (pbk.), $14.95 (cl.).
ISBN 0-88780-532-9 (pbk.), ISBN 0-88780-533-7 (cl.).

Subject Headings:
Parties-Juvenile fiction.
Schools-Juvenile fiction.
Multiculturalism-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.

Review by Gillian Richardson.

*** /4




...I follow her down the hall and into Mr. Blackwood's office.

"Sit down, Jan."

I sit down and stare at him. Is he smiling? It's hard to tell with that big beard. I tell myself that there's nothing scary about a beard. Why, if it were only white he'd remind me of Santa Claus. He does have pink cheeks and a bit of a tummy.

Oh dear, he's talking to me, and I haven't been listening.

"...a very clever idea. You seem to have everything well worked out, except..."

My heart sinks.

"Nuts!" he exclaims.

I don't know what to say. Is he being rude? Is he going to throw our whole great idea out?

"Huh?" I manage.

"Nut warning. When you send your letters to the parents you must tell them to label any food that has nuts in it...."

The problem of how to get the most out of the reward money that Jan and Sarah earned in a previous First Novel doesn't faze Jan whose trademark phrase is, "I'll think of something." She feels it should be spent on "something so totally awesome everyone will remember it forever." The girls decide to follow the example in the folktale, Stone Soup: "every kid in class brings their favourite dessert...we can have a really great party." Permission is needed from the new principal, and he seems "very fierce." But after their meeting with him reveals that first impressions aren't always accurate, the plans proceed and the party is a success.

     Jan is the driving force in the friendship with Sarah. She has the clever ideas and the confidence to act on them. All the minor obstacles are easily overcome: talking Sarah out of spending her share of the reward on a stuffed dog, deciding on a party, planning the details. The major obstacle - their fear of the principal - seems somewhat at odds with Jan's strong, outgoing personality, although illustrator Freire's portrayal of Mr. Blackwood reinforces her imagined perception of his severity to some extent. Jan's character does not undergo any significant change throughout the story other than her change in attitude toward the principal and her welcoming him to the party.

     The plot is simple, with a light-weight, not terribly dramatic problem. There is little real suspense; the solutions present themselves easily, and the outcome is never seriously in doubt. All the required elements are in place, the story moves well enough, and there are moments of humour, but it lacks the depth that would make it memorable, especially for the upper range of the interest level.


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

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

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364