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Montero, Gloria.

Toronto, James Lorimer, c1985. 165 pp, paper, ISBN 0-88862-9044 (cloth) $12.95, 0-88862-903-6 (paper) $5.95. (Time of Our Lives). CIP

Grades 5-8
Reviewed by Carol Steedman

Volume 14 Number 1
1986 January

Gloria Montero is a writer, broadcaster, and filmmaker now living in Spain. She has written several books, including Billy Higgins Rides the Freights (Lorimer, 1982). Her background has likely provided her with opportunities to collect material for this very authentic fictional story. By coincidence, I watched a report from "The Journal," aired on television on November 4, 1985, that documented the archaeological findings showing the existence of Basque whaling stations at Red Bay in the 1500s. I was very pleased to see the extent to which the documentary validated this novel. Through extensive research, Montero has skilfully included some little-known Canadian history in The Summer the Whales Sang.

The main character, Vivi Aguirre, is disappointed that she is spending her thirteenth birthday on a plane with her mother and a film crew heading to Red Bay, Labrador. Vivi feels ignored, now that her parents have separated. Her father is in Calgary and her mother is wrapped up in directing a film about the sixteenth-century Basque whalers. Since Vivi's parents, Jon and Ana, are from Spain, where the whalers originated, and her father is Basque, Vivi experiences mixed feelings about this summer venture. This novel contains numerous interwoven themes. Vivi feels a sense of loss and describes her parents' separation as "a big empty space inside me about where your stomach's supposed to be. When I'd think about it, the empty space moved up to my head. Then I'd have to make something else come into my mind." She attempts to weigh and rationalize their separation as it continues to surface throughout the story. Vivi experiences mother-daughter conflict, love, and loss, and she grapples with her emotions as she perceives herself becoming a teenager.

The Summer the Whales Sang is well-paced, with a moving climax. Here, in a compelling description of sixteenth-century Basque whaling, Vivi's flashback re-tells a whale's slaughter that results in three Basque sailors' death. This merges into a compact, but satisfying ending to the story. The book is well-bound, with good print and spacing. It could be used as a single library copy, or as a set for novel study. Recommended.

Carol Steedman, North Ward School, Paris, Ont.
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