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Geoffrey Bilson.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 1984.
158pp., paper, $5.95.
ISBN 0-919964-57-5. CIP.

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11

Reviewed by Brenda Watson.

Volume 13 Number 2
1985 March

Geoffrey Bilson wants to make Canadian history come alive for juvenile readers. His first book, Good-bye Sarah ¹, concerned the Winnipeg General Strike, and Death Over Montreal ², involved an early 1800's cholera epidemic in Lower Canada. Bilson is a professor at the University of Saskatchewan with a special interest in Canadian medical history. His research often gives him the historical settings for his novels.

The setting for this novel is Saskatoon during the second world war. Bob Williams is anxiously awaiting a new "brother" as part of the Child Guest Program. He is initially disappointed, but when David Harris needs a new placement he comes to live with the Williamses (Mom, Dad, Bob and Aunt Peg). David and Bob, both only children, suddenly find themselves sharing a room, a bed, the chores, and the attention. David's father is with the tank corps in Egypt, and his mother is working for the war effort in London. His anxiety and insecurity show themselves in tall tales, stealing small change, and bedwetting. He finds an understanding friend in Bob's best friend, Danny, who is Jewish and knows how it feels to be an outsider.

How Bob and the Williamses befriend Hockeybat, a nickname arising when David uses the word bat (as in cricket bat) to describe a hockey stick, is the main thrust of the story. Generosity and sensitivity on the parents' part and a convincing mixture of childishness and empathy from Bob make the story realistic and involving. The story begins in spring and builds up to the Christmas season, making this an unobtrusive but appropriate story for Christmas booklists.

Characters are realistically developed including those in minor roles. There is enough tension and action to sustain interest and the historical perspective is an added plus. This is a well rounded novel for readers aged 9 - 11. I recommend it.

Brenda Watson, Victoria, BC.

¹ Reviewed vol. X/4 1982, p.230.
² Reviewed vol. Xl/2 1983, p.56.

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