Saturday, August 4, 2018

Book Review: 'Murdering Mr. Edwards: Tales from Canterbury High' by Shawn L. Bird

‘No one remembered that the English Department Head office had been closed because of black mould’.

Canadian author Shawn Bird earned her BA in English from Athabasca University and her Med in curriculum form the University of British Columbia and is a high school English teacher, an author, and a poet in the beautiful Shuswap region of British Columbia. She has published the YA novel series Grace Awakening and several books of poetry. In her spare time, she trick trains her talented miniature poodle, plays the harp, and serves her community with Shuswap Rotary Club. MURDERING MR. EDWARDS is her third Young Adult novel – the others being GRACE AWAKENING and GRACE AWAKENING POWER. She has a fine penchant for the unexpected and knows the art of setting up what appears to be a straightforward novel only to supply a kicker of a surprise in the end.

Highschool. That period of our lives when dispositions are solidified and dreams are formed - and/or disrupted. It is a period of group identity and thought, a time for progression to adulthood, and opening of the door to the world outside the school grounds. Shawn knows this arena well and her excellent story satirizes the extremes with great success. 

We are offered both the flavor of the school and the personality of Mr. Edwards form page one – ‘Dr. Andrew Scott loved coming into the school in August. He stepped into the gleaming corridors, fresh with the scent of floor wax, and sniffed deeply. Ah. The scent of a new year rife with possibility. He loved being the principal of Canterbury High. He had a quite amazing staff, committed to their jobs and the students. It was wonderful each August to sit alone in the office, planning the year. He enjoyed the solitude of it, the quiet before the clamour of the student body. Today he was preparing to interview a new art teacher. He walked into the office to find someone was already there; he could hear the rhythmic murmuring of the photocopier. He sighed and opened the copy room door. He looked in, certain whom he’d find there. “Good morning, Andrew,” said Norton Edwards, glancing up at him. “Have a good summer?” Dr. Scott nodded. It was nearly thirty degrees outside, but Edwards was wearing wool pants, a button up shirt, and a bow tie. “You’re here early.” As expected. The head of the English department was a remarkably diligent educator. “Yes, I like to get my copying done before anyone else can monopolize the machine,” Edwards said with a smile. “I know,” sighed Scott. “You use up the entire English department’s copy budget by yourself, before the year has even started.” Edwards tittered. Scott didn’t know whether Edwards was oblivious or if he just didn’t [care} about anyone else in the building. Did Edwards think he was joking? “You should be careful, Norton. You [anger] enough people, you never know what could happen.” Edwards chuckled again. “Don’t be silly, Andrew. I’m adored here. My English students have the highest scores on all the tests. Their scores at university are significantly higher than average. People love that.” Scott sighed and backed out of the copy room. It was sad, but true. No matter how irritating he was with the other staff, Edwards definitely knew his job.’

And guess what is in store – ‘Mr. Edwards is the teacher that everyone loves to hate - the students, the parents, the support staff - even the other teachers wish he would just die. The good news? Mr. Edwards is finally being forced to retire, and the staff of Canterbury High are ready to rejoice. The only real question is, will they let him survive long enough to get to the party?’ To offer more would be a spoiler, the last thing a mystery book needs!

Shawn Bird has a gift and she uses it well. Among Young Adult authors she rises to the top of the list. Recommended. 

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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