________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 13 . . . . February 28, 2003


Jason and the Wonder Horn. (In the Same Boat).

Linda Hutsell-Manning.
Regina, SK: Coteau Books, 2002.
271 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 1-55050-214-X.

Subject Headings:
Coburg (Germany)-History-Juvenile fiction.
Germany-History-To 1517-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-13.

Review by Lisa Doucet.

*** /4


Across the highway, the New Lodge Farm sign slid in and out of sight as if suspended in the air. As they came close to the Workmans' chicken farm where his mom bought eggs, Jason thought he heard sheep bleating. He didn't know the Workmans had sheep. The fog rolled back momentarily, and instead of the house, Jason saw someone with a long wooden crook herding a flock of sheep across the road. He blinked and they were gone. Droplets of water formed in a ring on his bugle and the instrument glimmered almost like a beacon in the fog. Any minute now and they'd see the Cobourg town sign and it would be time to turn back. It was then that it occurred to Jason that no cars were passing now, that it seemed very still.

The path had become a dirt road, a strange road, and as if by some signal, they all stopped, Squid's drum playing dwindling down to an occasional nervous tap-tap.

"Where are we?" Charlotte whispered.

Jason Carter is decidedly unhappy about his family's move to a big old house in Cobourg, Ontario. He is even less happy when he finds himself virtually alone in his new surroundings when his mother has to go back to Toronto for a conference and his dad is completely preoccupied with the latest novel he is writing. Before his mother heads out, however, she tells Jason a little bit about the history of their new home which has been in her family for many years. Inspired by this news to do some exploring, Jason finds an old bugle that had once belonged to his great-uncle Joseph.

     Then Jason meets Charlotte and Squid, a brother and sister duo who are staying next door with their gran. Gran tells the children a pretty far-fetched tale about great-uncle Joseph’s claiming to have been transported to different times in his life by the bugle. Of course, they all agree that this could never truly have happened...until Jason, Charlotte and Squid find themselves in medieval Germany! Here Jason and his magic bugle have a major role to play in helping a young Lord defend his right to his title against the treacherous uncle who is plotting against him.

     Jason and the Wonder Horn is a grand adventure story with winsome characters, and it is sure to capture the fancy of young readers. Like all good time-travel tales, part of its appeal lies in the vivid depiction of a bygone time and a faraway place. However, of equal importance is the magical element of how the characters find themselves whisked away from the world they know. In this case, Jason's wonder horn provides the perfect passport to ancient times. Young people will be immediately caught up in the legend of the shepherd knight and will be swept away by the brisk plot as Jason and his young friends try to make their way to Lord Friedrich's castle and to find the hidden document that will prove his rightful claim to the title of Lord. The author does an impressive job of bringing to life the world of Germany in the 1400's, and of highlighting how vastly different the daily lives of the people were from what we know today. The tension in the story keeps readers rapidly turning pages to find out what will happen next: will Jason be hung by Otto and his men for supposedly stealing the golden horn? Will the children make it through the precarious tunnel to Hildred and Gunther's house and then into the forest to Frau Wolfin? And will they be able to solve Frau Wolfin's riddle and find the important document in time to put a stop to Otto's evil plans?

     I thought that the fact that the wonder horn had great significance in both ancient and modern times was a nice touch. That is to say, I enjoyed the fact that not only was the bugle the key to their time-travel, but it was also a major part of the legend of the shepherd knight. I was disappointed, however, that there was no family link to Jason's time-travel. I kept anticipating that one of the characters would turn out to be a distant relative or somehow be connected with great-uncle Joseph. I also thought that the ending was a little abrupt, in a couple of ways. For one, the fact that Otto simply ran off to a monastery seemed to be a somewhat anti-climactic resolution to that conflict. Secondly, when the children were transported back to modern times, I was surprised that the youngsters just went their separate ways. And I would have liked to see Jason and his mother talk about family history again, with Jason having a new perspective in light of his recent experiences. However, aside from these minor observations, I wholeheartedly enjoyed this book and can picture many young people being equally absorbed by it.


Lisa Doucet is a children's bookseller at Woozles in Halifax, NS.

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

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