________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 18. . . . May 9, 2003

cover The Busybody Buddha.

Margie Rutledge. Illustrated by Maxine Cowan.
Toronto, ON: Napoleon, 2002.
168 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 0-929141-91-1.

Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10.

Review by Gillian Noonan.

* /4


Resigned, Ernest followed Abigail and Jacob as they wound their way down the hill and west past North dock. At first, the boulder where the heron had paused seemed unaffected by its recent guest. But then, as they moved closer, another shock of colour came into view along the waterline.

A clump of irises -- blue irises -- bloomed amidst the rock where the boulder met the water. Now, our children didn't know enough about gardening to realize the irises were blooming out of season, but I know, and I'm telling you: these blooms were every bit as magical as all the other mysteries the children had encountered.

"It's got to be around here," said Jacob, scrambling up the boulder.

"The flowers, I'll bet they're a clue," said Abigail. She kneeled down to take off her sandals in order to go in the water then remembered she was never to go near in the water without an adult. "Ernest, watch for Mommy and Daddy," she ordered and poked her way along the rocks, wading in to the water.

Ernest sat down on a tree stump, angry because Abigail was telling him what to do again and feeling sorry for himself because he had to be the lookout instead of an adventurer. He was almost too tired to stay awake because the day had been so long and way too eventful, and he was almost starving because it was sinner. Mostly though, he was worried about charlotte. Who was she and how in the world was he going to help her?

Imagine owning a small statue that would speak subconsciously to you about the presence of unhappiness around you. That is precisely what five and a half year old Ernest has in Margie Rutledge's The Busybody Buddha. Ernest, his older siblings (Abigail, almost 11, and Jacob aged 8) and his parents are on vacation on a little island in the Muskokas. The small statue, a blue stone buddha with a mischievous face and magical properties known as "the busybody buddha," has also made the trip. Ernest's siblings were not impressed with the buddha's coming on the family vacation as it had previously led the children into a difficult and dangerous adventure in Rutledge' first book, The Great Laundry Adventure. Initially, Ernest buries the buddha as its busybody nature roots out unhappiness nearby, a feeling which Ernest does not wish to deal with while on holiday. The buddha, however, continues to transmit the unhappy and powerful message to Ernest, and he feels compelled to investigate. His siblings join him in the search for the message's source after a mysterious model boat arrives at their wharf. Along with their parents, the children return the boat to a deserted cove on a tiny mist shrouded island only to discover another model boat has arrived at their own wharf. When this one is returned, the children discover a mysterious cave which leads them to the past and a phantom girl who is the source of the buddha's messages. Finally the children are able to resolve the girl's difficulty and return to their own time and island to enjoy a fun-filled holiday.

      The Busybody Buddha is disappointing. While the idea of a family on summer vacation in the Canadian wilderness meeting up with a troubled ghost is not a novel one, the presence of the busybody buddha leaves the reader to hope for some interesting twists in the plot. This does not happen. Instead, the author relies on an omnipotent narrator speaking in the first person to assuage the reader's disbelief when the story's credibility begins to be thinly stretched. While the use of such a narrator is considered acceptable in a classical style of writing, within the modern context of this story it does not work. The resulting story is cumbersome and devoid of the freshness that might have been imparted with a character like the buddha.

Not Recommended.

Gillian Martin Noonan is a teacher living in Old Perlican, Newfoundland.


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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364