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Maud Vant.

Belcarra (BC), Janus Publishing, c1982.
212pp, paper, $3.95.
ISBN 0-919738-00-1.

Grades 8 and up.
Reviewed by Mollie Hooper.

Volume 10 Number 4.
1982 November.

The Year Begins With Winter is a novel about the experiences of a child in the bombing of London during World War II. The theme is timely, as many people today are trying to visualize the effects of nuclear war and are hoping for a more definite move toward peace.

The author is a teacher in Vancouver, having resided there for the last twenty years, but she did live in London during the time about which she writes. This gives her setting credibility. Through her characters we see the poverty, the pride, the lack of understanding (in some cases) of the schools, the true relationship of a "good teacher," the loyalty in a family (often tightened by living conditions), and the frustration. We see that, because of these things, some of the children mature very early and learn both an independence from and a mistrust of the adult world.

It is here that I feel that the author has gone astray. Her central character, Chickie Munday, is ten when the story opens. Although her school attendance is spasmodic, she has learned from her father and can quote an amazing amount of world history and politics. Mr. Munday is a zealous worker for the betterment of living and working conditions for the underprivileged. At eleven, she loses her father to cancer and holds down three jobs: helping a milkman deliver milk from 6:00 until 8:30 a.m., delivering coffee in a marketplace at noon, then after school, selling newspapers. A deathbed promise to her father that she would always look after the two younger brothers is carried out with fanatical zeal. An air raid demolishes her home, and Chickie is injured to the extent of being in a body cast. During her hospital stay of a month or so, her doctor brings her textbooks, and she raises her school standing to par in English, math, science, and history, besides becoming very proficient in Latin, which she has not taken before. She is still eleven!

The book might have been more believable if its main character had been made more realistic. Settings and some events were well done. I cannot say it is well written because there are too many mistakes in spelling and punctuation and too much unnecessary repetition of words. The print is so small, it is not easy to read. The cover and binding would not stand up to school use.

Those who went through World War II in England will find it nostalgic, but it will hardly make the impact on the younger generation that I am sure the author intended.

Mollie Hooper, Qualicum Beach, BC.
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