________________ CM . . . . Volume IV Number 12 . . . . February 13, 1998

Cover Juliana and the Medicine Fish.

Jake MacDonald.
Winnipeg, MB: Great Plains Fiction, 1997.
150 pp., paper, $16.95.
ISBN 0-9697804-4-3.

Subject Headings:
Muskellunge-Juvenile fiction.
Fishing-Juvenile fiction.
Fathers and daughters-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 6 and up / Ages 11 and up.
Review by Darleen Golke.

*** /4


Juliana grasped the dock, pushed herself down and suddenly it was very dark and silent. Green sunlight slanted down through the water and illuminated the world around her - the shadows, the darting minnows, the dock timbers all covered with a dark seaweed that swayed and pulsed like human hair. The water was cold, and she shivered as she swan downwards into the greenish gloom. Amongst the brown boulders on the bottom she immediately spotted his silver glasses, and with a powerful kick of her flippers, she dove down to pick them up. But as she turned to swim towards the surface, she sensed a movement to her right.

Was that something moving in the water?

Finally released from General Middleton Junior High for the summer, Juliana persuades her mother, Maggie, to let her spend time with her father, Mike, near Kenora at Stonehouse Lodge which is both his business and his passion. Ever since her mother left Mike and moved with Juliana to Winnipeg, Juliana has "felt her own sadness weighing her down. It was the first thing she felt when she woke up in the morning, and it was the last thing she felt when she lay in bed at night." Adjusting to life in the city, to a new school, to the separation from her father, to her mother's new interests, and to her own loneliness and sense of displacement contribute to her sadness.

      At the lodge, Mike hosts a fishing tournament sponsored by Yamashita, a company that markets kevlar fishing line. Juliana, who has been fishing since the age of five, convinces Mike they should enter the contest. The $200,000 prize would effectively solve Mike's financial problems and allow them to spend time together. As Juliana researches fishing techniques, she discovers a fishing treatise written by Dame Juliana Berners, a 15th century nun who becomes her inspiration. Juliana believes she has targeted a medicine fish, a huge muskie that is part of Ojibway legend, as the prize winner. Much of the action, which builds to a satisfactory climax, revolves around Juliana's struggles to catch the elusive and mysterious creature.

      In his first novel for young adults, Jake MacDonald selects Ontario's Lake of the Woods area as the setting and Juliana's struggles to accept change as a major theme. He mingles Ojibway mythology with fishing lore and modern commercialism. Juliana is a likable and appealing protagonist struggling to understand conflicting loyalties and emotions. She decides not to "act like either of her stupid parents" and rails at "the stupidity of it all, this trip to Stonehouse Lodge, this ridiculous fishing contest, this non-stop, never-ending campaign to get her father's attention".

      MacDonald's descriptions of the Northwestern Ontario region and the art of fishing are graphic and detailed; the dialogue is realistic and fluid. While the conflicts between man and nature are well presented and concluded, the personal conflicts are less successfully resolved. Nevertheless, readers should find the quest for the medicine fish a satisfying and intriguing journey. MacDonald has included angling quotations in "Juliana's Notebook" sections at the beginning of several chapters, many of them from Dame Berners.


Darleen Golke is the teacher librarian at Fort Richmond Collegiate in Winnipeg.

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

Copyright © 1998 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364