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Hugh, Susan
Toronto, Doubleday Canada, 1992. 171 pp, paper, $13.50, ISBN 0-385-25352-4. CIP

Grades 4 to 6/Ages 9 to 11

Reviewed by Dave Jenkinson

Volume 20 Number 5
1992 October

In her first juvenile novel, Hughes confronts the challenge of a time travel story and does a generally creditable job. Central character Raj, a young Canadian school boy of indeterminate age, lives alone with his lawyer mother, his journalist father from India having been killed accidentally when Raj was four. At the book's outset, a cowardly Raj is being tormented by the local bully, Bobbie Grimsley. Embarrassed before school beauty Jennifer Cooper and unwilling to admit his fear of Bobbie, Raj chooses to characterize himself as a pacifist. Subsequent "historical" events cause Raj to discover the term's true meaning.

When Raj's mother gives him an Indian marionette-type puppet previously owned by his father and reportedly passed for centuries from father to son, Raj discovers that "anything can happen" because the puppet "transports" him several times to seventeenth-century India, where he "becomes" the puppet's second owner. In the historical setting, Raj's "father" had voluntarily moved downward in Indian society by abandoning a warrior's life to become a puppeteer.

Because of his father's actions, the historical "Raj" finds his courage questioned by others. Nonetheless, Raj becomes involved in a heroic quest to save a young girl's father from being unjustly executed. Though force of arms initially seems the best solution, Raj comes to understand that Ghandi-like behaviours are superior.

The "time" movements make the plot somewhat choppy, and relationships among characters are better developed in the present than in the past. More an optional purchase than mandatory, Anything Can Happen, which contains occasional splashes of humour, will find some readership among those seeking a gentle story of character development.

Dave Jenkinson teaches children's literature in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Manitoba

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