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Norma Charles
Don Mills (Ont.), General Paperbacks, 1991. 101pp, paper, $5.95
ISBN 0-7736-7295-8. CIP

Grades 4 to 6/Ages 9 to 11

Reviewed by Jane Robinson.

Volume 20 Number 2
1992 March

Essentially, Darlene's Shadow is the story of friendship borne of crisis. There are a couple of good adventures hidden in the telling, but the narrative is too meandering. It's bogged down with unnecessary background in some parts while lacking more pertinent informa­tion in other parts.

Darlene's shadow is Noy, a young Cambodian immigrant whose fish-out-of-water status lands her in a perilous situation during a school camping trip. Assigned as Noy's "buddy," Darlene has spent all her energy up to this point trying to rid herself of Noy. But she ultimately comes through for Noy in the crunch, and Noy is able to repay the debt not long after. And so, in the end, Darlene learns a valuable lesson. Unfortunately, it is all stated so obvi­ously and all wrapped up so neatly that it seems contrived and weakens the ending.

Many children can relate to Darlene's problem of being saddled with a misfit who's cramping her style, from elders in a family who have younger siblings tagging along, to class situations where students are paired with a less-than-popular classmate. Many readers will even be able to relate to Darlene, from whose perspective the book is written. The other characters, however, have not been developed enough to be real or believable, especially Noy. Her story needs to be addressed more in order to bring credibility to the story as a whole.

Although the chapters are short and the type size large, some nine- to eleven-year-olds will be scared off by the amount of text, without even the usual black-and-white sketches to keep the reader going.

Limited appeal.

Jane Robinson, Winnipeg, Man.
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