April 25, 2014

Revenge on the Fly

by Sylvia McNicoll
Pajama Press
224 pp.
Ages 8+
April, 2014
Reviewed from advance reading copy

Never ever underestimate the efforts of a child who seeks revenge, especially if that revenge is in response to grief and heartache. Twelve-year-old Will Alton has lost his baby sister Colleen and his Mum to illness and that grief pervades his new beginnings with his father in 1912 Hamilton, Ontario.  So when Dr. Roberts, Hamilton’s health officer, visits Will’s new school to speak about the role of flies in the transmission of disease and to announce an essay contest and a fly-killing contest, Will is all in and Revenge on the Fly is on.

“You can be a hero to your city, vanquish disease, and win great prizes too.” (pg. 40)

As determined as Will is to kill “the miserable creatures that had caused my family so much grief” (pg. 50) and win $50 to help his father find them their own home (and away from the rooming house of vile Madame Depieu), hostile classmate Fred Leckie is just as relentless. Worse still, Fred has the advantage of wealth to bribe others to do the work for him and a father with a factory of workers compelled to help as well. Fortunately Will is tireless, clever and good-hearted, attributes that are always valuable when facing challenges.

Award-winning author Sylvia McNicoll who has penned numerous early chapter books, middle grade fiction and YA fiction, never submits to the predictable, in her storylines or characters. In Revenge on the Fly, Will, Fred, Ginny, Rebecca, Bea, Ian and Da have the true voices of individuals, never cardboard cut-outs. Even Finnigan has the yips and yaps of a true character, albeit a canine one. And while the ending is gratifying, it isn’t the all-tied-up-in-bows happy ending, because life isn’t like that and in 1912 it definitely wasn’t like that for poor Irish immigrants. Effortlessly Sylvia McNicoll finds the words to illustrate a tragic, but seemingly peculiar, episode in Canadian history and make it personal and unforgettable.

This review was originally written for and published in Quill & Quire, as noted in the citation below.

Kubiw, H. (2014, May). [Review of the book Revenge on the Fly, by Sylvia McNicoll]. Quill & Quire, 80 (4): 36.

1 comment:

  1. Honoured and very pleased that you liked my creative stretch into the past!