________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 22. . . .February 11, 2011.


Grim Hill: Forest of Secrets. (Grim Hill, Book 5).

Linda DeMeulemeester.
Montréal, PQ: Lobster Press, 2011.
189 pp., pbk, $10.95.
ISBN 978-1-926909-87-5.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Inderjit Deogun.

***½ /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



I joined the others at the window. Skeeter, Sookie, and Amanda were looking at the strange pile of stones outside. The stones were arranged in a circle and in spokes, like a wheel. In the moonlight the stones looked eerie - almost as if they were gaping skulls.

Amanda pointed to the stone circle and said in a peculiar, strangled voice, "This cabin is built on top of a doorway to the Otherworld." Then she turned and stared at me. "Remember how you were asking about a place of power, Cat? Well, you're looking at a place of power." The way Amanda was pointing out the window reminded me of the grisly sight I'd just seen in the loft, of the skeleton jabbing its bony hand in the same direction, except that Amanda still had her head.

"I ... I ... know what those stones are," Amanda continued nervously. "It's a medicine wheel and a medicine wheel is built upon a place of power ... sometimes great power."

"That's what you wanted, wasn't it?" Clive glanced doubtfully at Sookie. "... to find a place of power."

"Yeah," said Mitch. "Now you can use that mirror of yours and get us out of here."

Amarjeet shook her head. "Somehow I don't think it's going to be that easy." "Well," I asked my sister. "Is this what you were talking about? Can those stones help you work the mirror magic?"

Sookie's eyes grew so wide they threatened to swallow the only bit of light in the room. Her small face paled. She shook her head slowly as if she was confused. "Cat, this place scares me. Maybe there's too much power."

The hair on the back of my neck had been rising ever since we'd discovered this place - or it discovered us. Sookie had almost been pulled deep into dark magic this spring - and now she was trying to tell me that she felt that sinister tug again!

It's Orientation Day for Cat Peters and her friends. Anxiety runs high as they walk the halls of Shadowridge High, especially for Cat. The reality of new teachers, new courses and being the youngest students in school becomes too much to bear. That is, until, Cat, Sookie and her friends Amanda, Amarjeet, Clive, Jasper, Mia, Mitch and Skeeter are taken hostage on a runaway bus.

     As night approaches and the landscape outside the bus windows becomes increasingly barren, Cat and her friends know that they must take action. A lucky break comes in the form of an accident that renders the bus driver unconscious. Without wasting a moment, Cat and her friends grab hold of precious supplies and flee into the Headless Valley. Hours quickly turn into days. Cat is faced with a horrible decision: Risk her friend's survival or risk losing her sister to magic.

     Grim Hill: Forest of Secrets is a sensational roller-coaster ride. Readers will find the potent mix of fantasy, legend and magic simply spellbinding. Linda DeMeulemeester's ability to fashion a group of friends that both complement each other and are relatable is noteworthy. The realism of the characters and the sisterly bond between Cat and Sookie is what sets the "Grim Hill" series apart. It's a near certainty that the next installment will not disappoint!

Highly Recommended.

Inderjit Deogun is currently pursuing a career in publishing with a particular interest in children's literature.

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

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