CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 1 . . . . September 6, 2002
In a past life Christopher would have been an overseer with a whip. I would have been one of the galley slaves.
We were in the middle of the lake. Hidden Lake - ha! It wasn't hidden from me. It was all around me. And I couldn't wait to get out of it. It seemed to stretch on forever. The shore hung in the distance, like a painting.
Alan Dingwall is at it again! Our young protagonist once more finds himself a victim of circumstances, circumstances which make for a delightfully entertaining story. Forced to go on a rugged camping expedition with his mother's new boyfriend, Alan and his best friend, Victor, are soon lost in the wilderness. As they try to retrace their step and make their way to the end of the portage trail where they hope to be reunited with Christopher, they instead encounter an assortment of unexpected obstacles which include both angry bees and hungry bears. They are eventually rescued by Zinta, a young camper who is enthusiastically working towards her Master Tripper Scroll, an award for wilderness survival. Ultimately, after a stormy night in the woods, the boys are taken to Camp Omega, Zinta's camp, where they become embroiled in the rivalry between Zinta and her antagonist, Trixie. As Alan and Victor are recruited to participate in the camp's annual Games Day festivities, the enmity between these two girls and their respective teams heats up. Sadly, Alan's athletic prowess is on a par with his wilderness survival skills, and hence he quickly concludes that he will be of little use to his teammates. However, his strength as a poker player might just hold the key to victory for Zinta and their Lumberjack teammates.
Richard Scrimger's newest "Nose" story is wickedly humourous and a wonderfully fun summer camp saga. Like Scrimger's other stories, this one would make a great read-aloud story for families or in a classroom setting and is one that young people will thoroughly enjoy. And, as usual, what makes this story so profoundly amusing is Scrimger's brilliant portrayal of the ordinary details of everyday lie. For instance, his depiction of Alan's relationship with Christopher and the way in which the two of them were so clearly uncomfortable with Mrs. Dingwall's "suggestion" that they try to bond by embarking on this camping trip was just perfect. His description of Victor's phone call home to his mother from Camp Omega is also charmingly true-to-life. Alan is a decidedly believable and likeable narrator with just the right amount of sarcasm in his voice. His repeated apologies as he gets ahead of himself in telling his story are an endearing aspect of the tale and an effective device for retaining the interest of his readers. Young readers will empathize with Alan's struggles in this story: his reluctance as he is forced on this unappealing outdoor adventure, his resignation at the prospect of being nothing but a hindrance to his camp teammates at Camp Omega and his confusion when he finds his mother's boyfriend, Christopher, getting too friendly with the camp nurse. Richard Scrimger beautifully captures the humour in the mundane aspects of daily life while simultaneously portraying the very real thoughts and uncertainties of a typical 13-year-old boy.
Interestingly, while I was so struck by the hilarity of Alan's plight and his comedic narration, I didn't take much notice of Norbert, Alan's alien friend. While Norbert's presence in the story provided continuity with the first two books, it wasn't particularly necessary to the story. In fact, it felt like more of a distraction, like the author was trying to fit him into the story despite the fact that he didn't really need to be there. I wasn't altogether pleased with the way in which Norbert's main role in the story seemed to be to arouse interest in a future installment in which Alan will somehow be called upon to help Norbert, presumably on his home planet of Jupiter. However, readers of the first two books about Alan Dingwall will no doubt be looking for Norbert and will be pleased to see him back.
In short, Noses Are Red is a light-hearted, 100% fun, warm and witty tale that makes an especially great summer read. It will be a pleasure to put this book into the hands of young readers who will undoubtedly appreciate such an uncomplicated and highly entertaining story.
Lisa Doucet is a children's bookseller at Woozles in Halifax, NS.
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