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Mary Woodbury
Regina, Coteau Books, 1994. 112pp, paper, $4.95
ISBN 1-55050062-7. CIP

Subject Headings:
Mystery and detective stories.
Parent and child-Fiction.

Grades 3-7 / Ages 8-12

Reviewed by Joan Payzant

Volume 22 Number 6
1994 November / December

When I first started my job as teacher-librarian in 1974 I was shocked at the shortage of Canadian books for children in our school libraries. That has changed today, thanks to the Canada Council and grants from various provinces and cities to many talented new writers.

The Invisible Polly McDoodle is the type of book I wished for back in 1974. It's a great story for senior elementary children, a mystery set in a neighbourhood that will be familiar to many, containing an apartment building, a park, a school, and a few single-family dwellings. The time is shortly before Christmas, and a number of robberies in Polly McDoodle's apartment building have roused her curiosity. Polly meets with her friend Kyle Clay in their treehouse club and they decide to solve the mystery. There is a well-drawn cast of characters: Arturo, a nervous young refugee from South America; Rudy, a rather questionable body shop owner; a pair of young punks; and Isabel, retired teacher/artist.

Polly is in grade 6, and she has an older brother Shawn who seems to her to get all her parents' love and attention, so she feels invisible. Artist Isabel and her little dog George (who seem to understand Polly better than her own family) also become involved in Polly's and Kyle's plan to foil the robbers.

Author Mary Woodbury has previously written two other stories for children, Where in the World is Jenny Parker (Groundwood Books/ Douglas & McIntyre, 1989) and Letting Go¹. She has a remarkable talent for understanding the sensitive emotions of young people and for letting the reader experience the motives behind their actions. Although there are many characters in the story, the author has the ability to draw them clearly, each having easy-to-remember physical characteristics and personality traits. Life at home and at school is well documented, with typical child/parent conflicts, the problem of acceptance by their peers faced by children of new Canadians, the unhealthy life-styles of the young punk couple, and the dangers posed by drugs.

This book will be popular with senior elementary children, and at $4.95 is a very good buy as well, with its attractive cover and overall production quality. It is a choice of the Canadian Children's Book Centre.

Highly recommended.

Joan Payzant is a former teacher-librarian in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

¹ Reviewed vol. XX/4 September 1992, p.205.

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