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Mowat, Claire
Illustrated by Malcolm Cullen Toronto, Key Porter Books, 1992. 92pp, cloth, $12.95, ISBN 1-55013-428-0. CIP

Grades 3 to 6/Ages 8 to 11

Reviewed by Dave Jenkinson

Volume 21 Number 1
1993 January

Metaphorically speaking, Mowat has created a book with a "sandwich" plot wherein the "filling" is much tastier than the "bread slices" surrounding it.

For the Christmas holidays, Torontonian Andrea Baxter, almost thirteen, has been sent to her paternal uncle's home in Andersen's Arm, a small Newfoundland outport community of some three dozen houses. Andrea fills her days by engaging in various local activities, such as mummering, with her Aunt Pearl and cousins Jeff, twelve, and Matthew, ten. (Initially, Uncle Cyril is absent because the local fish plant's closure has caused him to become an oil tanker crew member.)

The holiday's high point occurs when the three children discover a beached pilot whale and rally the community to affect its rescue. In addition to capturing Newfoundland speech patterns and idioms, Mowat, abetted by Cullen's pen-and-ink sketches, does a fine job of re-creating the little details of outport life, which will appeal to those "from away," i.e., mainlanders.

Wrapped around Andrea's Christmas holiday adventures is the story of her family "problems." Following the accidental death of her father some six years before, Andrea and her teacher-mother have created a new life together. However, two days prior to the book's beginning, Mrs. Baxter remarried, and she and new husband Brad are spending their Christmas holidays honeymooning in Florida. Resenting the various changes her new stepfather represents, Andrea feels Brad cannot ever replace her dead father. Nevertheless, after her sojourn in Newfoundland, Andrea suddenly decides "she would try to meet Brad halfway, no matter how difficult it was." While readers may be satisfied with the book's "happy" ending, nothing other than the simple passage of time has occurred to account for Andrea's abrupt change of heart.

An acceptable addition to school and public library fiction collections.

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