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Roch Carrier
New York, Viking Penguin, 1991. 168pp, cloth, $19.99
ISBN 0-670-83832-2. Distributed by Penguin Books Canada. CIP

Grades 7 and up/Ages 12 and up

Reviewed by Theo Hersh.

Volume 20 Number 2
1992 March

The very wise child of the title is also very pious. His prayers, said in the village church, are naive, earthy, serious, sincere and urgent. He prays to give thanks, as in 'Titties Prayer," for forgiveness, as in "Bread Prayer," out of fear of dying, as in "Funeral Prayer," and in sheer joy, as in "Prayer of the City of Quebec."

Roch Carrier writes convincingly in the voice of the child. From the child's perspective, there are certain things in life that are hard to understand, espe­cially adult behaviour, but the child accepts this unquestioningly: "1 didn't understand what [our father) meant, but I wasn't worried. It's not until you have a beard that you understand everything. But then you shave it. I'd like You to tell me when it is that girls understand. They never get beards. Except if they turn into old nuns."

Carrier's words on the page are like brush strokes on a canvas. The village, circa World War II, and its inhabitants vividly come to life as the child's confessions unfold in meandering fashion. The child, too, comes into sharp focus as he grapples with the local custom and superstition, and his own sins.

The simplicity of child's prayers belies the complexities of life and one's ability to grasp them. This is one of the beauties of Carrier's writing: Carrier softens the blow of growing up with tender and poignant - and funny - remembrances of childhood.

i>Prayers of a Very Wise Child is initially full of laughs, but ultimately it is a thought-provoking search for one's own identity.

Theo Hersh, Toronto Public Library, Toronto, Ont.
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