Young Reader Review: Disaster at the Highland Games by Riel Nason
Disaster at the Highland Games
Author: Riel Nason
Illustrator: Nathasha Pilotte
Chocolate River Publishing
Kate loves learning to “turn out and point/high cut and leap/assemble change, change/and hop, brush, beat, beat” at her weekly highland dance class. When her teacher suggests that she compete in the upcoming Highland Games, she is thrilled.
Kate promises to practice so she will be ready for the competition, but soon discovers that practicing by herself at home isn’t nearly as much fun. She assures her mother that she’s “good enough already.”
When she gets to the Games, all is well, at first. But then comes the sword dance. Soon Kate’s lack of practice becomes readily apparent … and sets off a riotous chain of events that will make these Highland Games truly unforgettable.
This high-spirited and rollicking tale captures the festive energy of the traditional Highland Games, noting the various elements from the caber toss to the wool-spinning demonstrations, and from the Celtic music to the kiltmakers. All of these and more become part of the merry mayhem as the errant sword that Kate accidentally kicks leads to complete chaos.
The story is light and humorous and features lively, expressive watercolour illustrations that cheerfully depict the havoc that Kate wreaks. Loose lines and sketchy outlines, along with exaggerated facial expressions and cartoony characters lend a further air of whimsy.
The rhyming text suits the playful tone of the tale but doesn’t always flow smoothly and feels forced at times. Yet words and images combine to create a frolicsome tale of hilarity and hijinx, one where the main character learns her lesson, but isn’t too fazed by it all.
Lisa Doucet is the co-manager of Woozles Children’s Bookstore in Halifax. She shares her passion for children’s and young adult books as our young readers editor and book reviewer.