MCBAY, Bruce

Author Tags: Kidlit & Young Adult

Author of:

Puffin Rock, (Book Society, Canada, 1980). Co-written with James Heneghan. ISBN 0-7725 5070-0. Price $4.99. Lundigan Puffin must find a way to save his colony from Scavington and his greedy seagulls.

Waiting for Sarah (Orca Books, 2003) Co-written with James Heneghan.

Nannycatch Chronicles (Tradewind Books, 2005). Co-written with James Heneghan. Price $19.95

Angels INC (Tradewind, 2008). Illustrated by Kim La Fave.

[BCBW 2008] "Kidlit"

Nannycatch Chronicles by James Heneghan and Bruce McBay (Tradewind $19.95)

When children outgrow Piglet and Eeyore at the House of Pooh Corner, now there’s a nearby place to learn—gently—that everything in this world doesn’t always turn out all right in the end. It’s called Nannycatch Meadows. And it’s in the Great Forest, across from Grotty Bottom, which is located between Sheepshank Knott and Pokey Edge. You can’t miss it because James Heneghan and Bruce McBay have put a map at the outset of Nannycatch Chronicles. The marvellous place names of that map, such as Boggle Hole, Biskey Fen and Pussytoe Hollow, are derived from real villages that Heneghan and his wife discovered in the north of England during a recent walking tour. Having collaborated with McBay on several books already, Heneghan was happy to lend his list of places to the process of creating an unusual chapter book about an unassuming possum and his decidedly nasty uncle. The drawings by Geraldo Valério are comfortingly familiar, teensy etchings of Chief Moose, a tea pot, Chipmunk, Robin and Bear. But the amusing and concise storylines in Nannycatch Chronicles are a tad different. More than a few of the charming critters die. Or rather, they get killed. Sometimes not entirely by accident, usually because Uncle Possum is as careless as he is callous. The Nannycatch News carries the UPSETTING news but it appears nobody can do much about such things. Death, like a well-known four-letter word, happens.

Good-hearted Possum can’t fix his Uncle Possum’s temper. “Uncle’s heart grows nastier and meaner every year,” he says. “He yells at babies, he doesn’t believe in Christmas or coloured crayons or bubblegum, and he never plays any games. Uncle Possum doesn’t know the meaning of fun.” As a radical measure, Possum arranges for his uncle to have a heart operation to get it fixed. “If the operation is a success,” says Chipmunk, “perhaps your uncle will become a vegetarian like us.” But no such luck. In Nannycatch, whimsy is seldom rewarded. The procedure fails and Uncle Possum remains as cantankerous as ever.

A new highway is built by humans, making refugees of Possum’s friends. He tries to help everyone, heroically saving Old Weasel’s life. But fatal and near-fatal accidents continue. Skunk is killed when Uncle Possum hurls a book at him. Forced to try swimming, Swallow drowns. “Swallow swallowed a lot of water,” notes Woodpecker. Nannycatch Meadows, like the real world, is a charming but dangerous place. Illustrated by little tombstones, there’s a Publisher’s Warning at the outset. “Everything dies: flowers, trees, elephants, bees, hamsters, turtles, dolphins, dogs, cats… Everything. Nothing lives forever. Everyone knows this. Young readers, however, should guard against this book falling into the hands of grown-ups, many of whom get quite upset whenever the subject of death is mentioned. Don’t ask us why.” 1-896580-56-4

[BCBW 2005]