________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 22. . . .June 26, 2009


White Cave Escape.

Jennifer McGrath Kent.
Halifax, NS: Nimbus, 2009.
162 pp., pbk., $11.95.
ISBN 978-1-55109-711-4.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12

Review by Tanya Boudreau.

***½ /4



"Petra, STOP!" he roared. He launched himself into a flying football tackle. The impact caught Petra just above the hip. Down they went with a crash that knocked the breath out of both of them.

"What did you do that for?" Petra gasped. She struggled to get to her feet. "We have to follow the birds. We have to find a way out of here! We-"

Shawn held up his hand. Silently, he pointed to the ground. Right next to Petra, a gaping, black hole yawned out of the earth. She yelped in surprise and jerked back.

Just then, Craig and Tony caught up, skidding to a stop beside them.

"Holy cow!" exclaimed Tony in horrified amazement, looking at the hole. "Holy cow, that was close!"

Craig edged cautiously forward and looked down. He whistled. "Wow- do you think it goes all the way to China?"

"I don't think I want to find out," replied his brother, getting to his feet and offering a hand to Petra. "Sorry for tackling you so hard," Shawn said as he pulled her upright. "Are you hurt?"

Petra shook her head wordlessly, still staring down into the black emptiness beside her.


Tony goes into the woods to retrieve his favorite golf ball from a golf ball stealing fox. Shawn, Craig, and Petra go into the woods to retrieve Tony because, as Craig says, "He gets lost in his own backyard." The friends never do find the golf ball, but they find King Quarry, the biggest gypsum quarry in the White Rock area of Hillsborough. It is a great place to explore, but the surroundings are filled with abandoned mines and dangerous sinkholes. Deciding it's best to go home, they start to head back to the golf course. Three teenagers driving ATVs prevent them from leaving though, and what they see while trying to stay hidden is cruel and quickly turns deadly. Now, even if they wanted to leave the woods by going past the teenagers, they can't because fire is surrounding them and moving quickly. The only safe place is up high on the cliffs or down low in the caves.

     Escaping through the woods isn't just a matter of avoiding fire, heat and smoke. The friends have to duck exploding trees and five thousand liters of water pouring down from the sky. While in the woods, they have to make a decision about survival when they discover an adversary in need of help, and their resourcefulness is tested when they need to make a torch, a compass, and a bandage with nothing but the contents of their pockets and what's on the forest floor. But just as happened in their first adventure in Chocolate River Rescue, the friends help each other survive the worst of times by working hard and staying focused.

      Many of same feelings the characters dealt with in the first book, such as fear and exhaustion, return in the second book, with the addition of jealousy. Twelve-year-old Shawn is developing feelings for Petra, and these feelings are hinted at when the new character, Colin, is around. Colin is older, more knowledgeable about the area, and very quick when it comes to saving Petra from danger.

      Compared to the author's first book, Chocolate River Rescue, there are no scenes with Shawn and Craig's parents, but Petra's uncle, Daryl, does return. At the end of the book, Uncle Daryl brings the friends to a place where they will see Colin continuing to pay back for what he believes he caused in King Quarry. In addition, the bear that was hallucinated in the first book appears for real in this book, and Hobart, the Newfoundland dog, is a life saver in this new book as well, as are the search and rescue teams and the firefighters.

      White Cave Escape has many dramatic moments. Just when readers think that the situation cannot possibly get any worse for the kids, the author leads the characters to the Pits of Despair and, later, to a pitch-black cave with an angry bear inside. But as the story progresses, readers will learn a little bit about forest fires and forest fire survival, the areas surrounding the White Caves and the Pits of Despair, and how to make a simple and quick weather vane using grass.

      Shawn, Craig, Petra and Tony are good kids. They have goals in life and interests they pursue. Having survived two disasters together now, the friends have become close, and they've learned about their own strengths and weaknesses.

      Jennifer McGrath Kent attended St. Francis Xavier University and the University of Victoria. She has a master's degree in English literature and experience working as a CBC Radio reporter and writer, and a speechwriter. Jennifer lives in New Brunswick where she works as a freelance writer and educator.

Highly Recommended.

Tanya Boudreau is a librarian at the Cold Lake Library in Cold Lake, AB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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