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Martyn Godfrey and Frank O'Keefe

Richmond Hill (Ont.), Scholastic Canada, 1991. 134pp, paper, $3.95
ISBN 0-590-74045-8. CIP

Grades 4 to 7/Ages 9 to 12
Reviewed by Dave Jenkinson.

Volume 20 Number 1
1992 January

Despite the humorous-sounding title, this collaborative effort between Godfrey and O'Keefe treats a serious theme — death's aftermath. Four years have passed since seventh grader Nicole Peters' father's fatal accident, and her mother is about to remarry.

Nicole acknowledges mixed feelings about her stepfather-to-be. She likes Barry Manning but fears the marriage will bring changes to the existing mother-daughter relationship. Nicole's concerns are seemingly legitimized when Barry overrules a decision just made by her mother. During the newlyweds' honeymoon, Nicole is to take care of their Alberta farm. At the urging of boy-crazy friend Robyn, Nicole asks permission to have a party during her parents' absence. When her mother's affirmative response is contra­dicted by her new father, Nicole, though confused by her motivation, determines to hurt Barry by proceeding with the party.

Comprehension arrives via gorgeous new-boy-in-town Brent, who shares his family history. During counseling sessions, Brent discovered that his negative reactions to his stepmother were related to fears of losing her, as he had lost his birth mother. Making Barry angry at her, Nicole recognizes, was an attempt to insulate herself from the pain should he also die. As the title suggests, the party ends in disaster, but all is forgiven when Nicole shares her new self-understanding with her parents.

Because There's a Cow in My Swim­ming Pool is meant to be light reading, the authors can be forgiven for having Nicole's understanding and her parents' forgiveness arrive too easily. With the exception of Nicole, characters are essentially types playing plot-advancing roles. Humour is principally physical and includes Robyn's being sprayed by a skunk and losing her bikini top while "swimming" with the cow. With the preponderance of urban settings in juvenile fiction, middle school readers may welcome this fresh locale, which, in one incident, makes them spectators at a calf's birth.

Dave Jenkinson, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Man.
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