Tabloidology (2009), by Chris McMahen

This review was 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.” It appears in volume 14.5.


The lessons that Tabloidology delivers are important: issues of representation—truth, falsehood, exaggeration, omission—are combined with a lesson in achieving balance that many readers will be beginning to learn themselves.  On this level, Tabloidology is an ambitious story.  Unfortunately, the narrative style detracts from the power of the message.  It is only a small step from engagingly irreverent to over-the-top ridiculous, but this story takes it.  Many young readers may appreciate the over-the-top humour in the text, but even grade 4 to 6 readers—at whom it seems to be aimed—will likely find it too silly for their tastes.

One of the protagonists, Trixi, writes fictional stories—”a great big pack of lies” (66)—for the school newspaper, which, when the paper is photocopied on a magical photocopier, come true the following day.  A fabulous premise, but excessiveness in a multitude of narrative aspects weakens the effect.  Small issues become traumatic, while serious issues such as poverty and child neglect are considered sources of humour; the adults are made stereotypically ridiculous; and the predictability of the events the protagonists are worried about seems to belittle the reader—or at least not demand very much in the way of critical reading.  So much could have been right with this story, if the humour, the stereotypes, the silliness, were toned down just a little.  The balance the protagonists learn is necessary in media reportage would be beneficial here as well: the important messages that this story could have delivered are lost in a humour that tries too hard.

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