Children’s Book Reviews

Double Children's Book Review: Morgan on Ice and Who I'm Not by Ted Staunton

Publish November 29, 2013

Morgan-On-IceMorgan on Ice (Formac First Novels) Written by Ted Staunton Illustrated by Bill Slavin Formac Publishing 56 pp September, 2013 Grades 1 to 4 Who I’m Not Written by Ted Staunton Orca Book Publishers, 186 pp October, 2013 Grades 7 and up Like comedy writing, crime writing requires tight plotting and tension So, it’s no surprise that, this fall, funnyman Ted Staunton has successfully turned his talents to crime even as he maintains his humorous day job. An accomplished writer and teacher, Staunton has always been skilled at injecting humour into his more than picture books, early readers, non-fiction, middle grade and YA books (over 40 to date). True to form, the first of his fall books, Morgan on Ice, is a funny chapterbook for beginning readers. The second, Who I’m Not, is a departure — and a successful one — for Staunton. It’s a serious crime novel for teens and one that packs a punch without any laughs. Morgan on Ice is the 17th book in an engaging series about the much put-upon Morgan and his sometimes nemesis/sometimes friend Aldeen Hummel, the Godzilla of Grade 3. The plot strands include Morgan’s dislike of skating, his desire to see the Monster Truck-A-Rama with his friend Charlie, and the fact that he has already agreed to go to Princesses on Ice with Aldeen. Despite his attempts to wriggle out of it, Morgan must bow to the fact that he has to abide by his prior commitment. Fortunately, everything turns out for the best for Morgan, Aldeen and all his friends – and no one misses the trucks or the princesses. Staunton offers a plot with just enough twists and turns to keep the reader engaged and enthused about reading. Despite the limited word and page count, he subtly sketches in the nuances in both Morgan’s and Aldeen’s characters and their relationship. This is important in sustaining a series and beginning readers will want to explore the other 16 adventures and mishaps of Morgan and Aldeen. Bill Slavin’s black and white illustrations, full of action and humour, add to the enjoyment. Twists and turns are frequent and suspenseful in Who I’m Not. The 15-year-old narrator doesn’t know who his parents are or what name he was born with, nothing beyond the fact that he was born in Portland, Oregon. His childhood has been a succession of ghastly foster homes and he has recently been working with a skilled con man named Harley. In the opening chapters, Harley is killed in a car accident in Arizona, and the narrator must find a new name and persona. In the office of the Youth Services worker, he picks a name from a list of missing children – Danny Dellamondo – and is promptly reunited with the Dellamondo family in Port Hope, Ontario, Canada. Determined to build up a stash of money and get back to the US quickly, “Danny” uses all his con artist skills to fit the role of a Canadian child kidnapped and held in the US for three years. Complicating matters are a cop who doesn’t believe he is Danny and a growing friendship with the daughter of an investment advisor who absconded with his clients’ money. His new family easily accepts him as their son and brother. Or do they? And if they know he’s not the real Danny, why are they pretending he is? And what did happen to the real Danny? Staunton gives us a tightly woven, suspenseful story that will grip readers and keep them turning the pages. At the same time, the ineffable sadness of the narrator’s situation adds a poignant undertone and depth to the story. Readers may figure out the real Danny’s fate before the narrator does, but there are many more developments before the last page. Whether a reader is a child discovering the fun in Morgan’s mishaps or a teen with a yen for crime and/or humour, both these books are excellent introductions to the works of Ted Staunton and many enjoyable reads. Gillian O'Rielly  Gillian O’Reilly is the editor of Canadian Children’s Book News and a children’s book author. Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. This review, and all of our children’s book reviews, are free to reprint and repost. Download the files here or Contact Us for more information. Word Doc: Ted Staunton Reviews  PDF: Ted Staunton Reviews