Illust. Michael Deas.
These reviews were first published in Resource Links Magazine, Canada’s national journal devoted to the review and evaluation of Canadian English and French resources for children and young adults. Soccer Sabotage is reviewed in volume 14.5; Media Meltdown is reviewed in volume 15.1.
Soccer Sabotage (2009)
With avid but beginning soccer enthusiasts, this book should resonate; for other readers, it will likely be a disappointment. While the author integrates the soccer tips with his mystery fairly well, the soccer tips are by fair the most lucid and interesting part of the text. It is here we feel the author really knows his topic.
While the graphic novel form is probably the best choice for delivering soccer strategies and techniques—in that it provides both verbal and visual cues—it does not substitute for solid plot and character development, which are notably missing from Soccer Sabotage. The illustration is engaging, with clear lines and effective depiction of expressions and body language, which goes a long way to make this story enjoyable. The story is carried by the words, however; the graphic elements support, but do not augment the narrative. My children (10 and 11) both felt that the story did not “hold together”; too little information was provided in the dialogue bubbles for interesting plot development, and the images did little to alleviate this lack. The result is a somewhat disjointed narrative, pictures beside words, interspersed with useful soccer lessons.
Media Meltdown (2009)
O’Donnell and Deas have chosen a topic that corresponds effectively with their narrative form. The story integrates pre-teens’ experiences in life—biking, family dynamics, school—with important lessons regarding the power of economics over not only media but many aspects of the adult world, producing a well-constructed mystery. The complexities of the relationship between corporate finances, media decisions, and the effect on the lives of people in the community are explicated effectively through the use of the graphic form. Through both plot and side-bar explanations, readers learn how the media world operates at both the technical and the economic levels.
The link the children discover between Viamix Corporation’s media manipulation and Jagroop’s family’s unwilling decision to sell their farm causes the children to launch their own “advertising” campaign. The children’s ability with electronic technology—and their interest in learning more—will ring true for many readers, old and young alike, and lends veracity to this already engaging mystery. A final positive comment: the characters in Media Meltdown are ethnically diverse—Jagroop is Indian, Pema and Nima are Asian, Bounce is Afro-Canadian—yet their ethnicities an cultures are not forefronted as “issues,” but merely a part of who they are as young Canadians.