CM Archive
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Marjorie Kendall
Illustrated by Peter Bjerkelund

Halifax, Nimbus, 1990, 67pp, paper, $5.95
ISBN 0-921054-34-3. CIP

Grades 2 to 4/Ages 7 to 9
Reviewed by Anne Kelly.

Volume 19 Number 5
1991 October

Noogamich and Other Stories is a collection of ghost stories. Unfortu­nately, Marjorie Kendall has forgotten the main ingredient of a good ghost story: suspense. At their best, the stories are bland and simplistic. At their worst, they are didactic and heavy handed.

In the title story, "Noogamich," Kachina is upset because the other children in school call her names, including "redskin" and "stupid Indian." Her grandmother, Noogamich, appears, and tells her the Micmac story of Creation. Through the legend, Noogamich helps Kachina to see that she is special because she knows and understands things that others do not, such as having two names for God and what it is like to sleep under the stars.

That native people have special knowledge and different ways of looking at the world are valid and important points. The author, however, undermines this by the condescending tone she uses. Rather than having Noogamich reassure Kachina of her uniqueness, she says, "...always remem­ber.... You know something they don't. And knowing something always makes you feel fuller and better." The use of the word "better" disturbs me; the implication, intentional or otherwise, that someone is "better" than another is distressing.

Kendall's preaching is even more obvious in 'The Ticket Home." Two ghosts, Pook and Poke, must find a "responsible" boy who will free them from this world in which they have been trapped. Unfortunately, most of the children they encounter are not respon­sible — they leave toys lying around and gates open. Even young children will get the point.

The final story, "Amy," is my favourite. In it, a young ghost, Petrie, watches over Amy, ready to help her make the transition into the afterlife. The story is gentle and caring; it is also cluttered up with the author's images of paradise. It is a reassuring story, but not a totally honest one. Amy comes to Petrie, to death, too willingly; there is no indication that death is painful, fearful, or not readily sought. Children need comfort; they also need to discuss and confront their fears. "Amy" does not allow that.

Overall, Noogamich and Other Stories was a disappointment. The morals so obviously presented should be carefully examined before the book is used with young children.

Anne Kelly, Dartmouth, N.S.
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