Volume 21 Number 4
Jo Bannatyne-Cugnet, author of A Prairie Alphabet, wrote this novel to answer her son Daniel's question, "Why can't a kid on the prairies be a hero?"
Ten-year-old James Johnston, better known as Alkali because of his whitish blond hair and gift for disaster, certainly isn't an obvious hero. Endlessly curious and impulsive, he can't seem to help driving his grandfather crazy. For example, Alkali's temper gets the better of him when he finds that his grandfather has burned the body of his dead cat, and he responds by destroying his grandfather's prize tomatoes.
Alkali is quickly repentant when his grandmother explains the grandfather's more pragmatic attitude toward death and farm animals, a repentance reinforced by the penalty of having to clean out the chicken coop. But when it's important to keep a cool head, Alkali remembers his grandfather's words, "Accidents are caused by carelessness, but it's panic that kills," and he becomes a real hero when he steers the combine away from a lake after his grandfather has collapsed at the wheel.
This is an excellent, nicely printed addition to the "Northern Lights Young Novels" series. Children from the rural prairie setting will recognize their own milieu and city children will have an educational glimpse of daily life in the country, especially at harvest time. Both groups will appreciate the realistic, touching and sometimes humorous treatment of the relationship between Alkali and his grandfather.
Kathleen L. Kellett-Betsos is an assistant professor at Ryerson Polytechnic University in Toronto, Ontario.
1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995
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