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Brian Doyle.
Vancouver, BC: Douglas & Mclntyre, 1984.
I28pp., paper, $6.95.
ISBN 0-88899-034-0. A Groundwood Book. CIP.

Grades 7-9 / Ages 12-14

Reviewed by Joan Weller.

Volume 13 Number 2
1985 March

This book is many things. It's a novel about racial prejudice. It's a good mystery, filled with humour. It's a trip down memory lane for anyone like this unashamedly sentimental reviewer.

A younger Tommy than readers first met in Up to Low ¹, is the lively, endearing hero who sets out to solve the mystery surrounding the beating of his friend's father at the hands of an unidentified anti-Semite. The stage, where action, characters, emotions and moods converge, is Angel Square, in reality located in Lower Town Ottawa, 1945 but, figuratively any where that love, prejudice, joy, anxiety, anticipation and youthful exuberance abound.

Posing as his radio hero, The Shadow ("Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men ?"), Tommy ingeniously brings the moronic but violent villain to his just retribution, and he wins the attention of none other than a real Margot Lane. A message of tolerance is delivered through the antics of the sparring students (Protestant, Irish Catholic and Jew), who vacillate from pitched battles to playing happily together. The book's themes of mystery, prejudice, tolerance and love are bathed in a misty curtain of sweet nostalgia and rollicking humour.

Anyone who grew up in the '40s will enjoy reading the book aloud and passing on the flavour of the period to younger readers. Passages that recall shaking the furnace, wearing breeks in winter, shopping in Woolworths at Christmastime for the inevitable Richard Hudnut beauty set and singing hits like "Chickory Chick, Cha-la cha-la," are to be savoured. The sounds, smells, indeed the whole authentic time and place, are captured with touching warmth, and at times in deadpan satire.

Never does the author intrude in this first person narrative, but he allows the action, coloured with autobiographical details, to flow in an almost stream of consciousness style. This novel runs the gamut of emotions, making readers want to laugh and cry, sometimes simultaneously. Doyle's finest book to date is a read alone book for blossoming adolescents and a read aloud book for adolescents of today and yesterday.

Joan Weller, Ottawa P.L., Ottawa, 0N.

¹ Reviewed vol Xl/2 1983, p.57.

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