A Light in the Dunes.
Grades 6 - 9 / Ages 11 - 14.
Grades 6 - 9 / Ages 11 - 14.
Bang! The sound of the steel door shutting booms through my skull. I close my eyes. The musty smell that greets me makes my stomach churn. A wave of dizziness engulfs me. My hands want to hold my head. For a moment I forget they are tied behind my back. Now I feel the rope cutting into my skin. Sounds behind me remind me that I am not alone.So begins the mystery/adventure of Rixt, a teenager on the Dutchisland of Ameland which is found in the North Sea. Ameland, a tourist spot in the summer, is modern in its outlook and practices but retains many traditional ceremonies and stories. One of those stories is the legend of Rikst, the witch that beckoned ships to their graves so she could scavenge from the victims.
The legend of Rikst haunts Rixt who is embarrassed to be named after someone evil, especially when a handsome boy at school taunts her about it. She has not been named after her grandmother, and her mother will not reveal why she chose the name of Rixt. Neither will her father who defers to his wife. Her mother's silence causes Rixt to be upset and confused, and, though mother and daughter remain on friendly terms, it is a source of tension between them.
At the same time, Rixt is busy with life on the island. She and her friends, Bas and Thomas, comb the dunes that are battered by storms. It is on the dunes that the trio become involved in a dangerous adventure that nearly leads to their deaths, but Rixt saves the day. After she recovers, her mother reveals a secret that explains Rixt's name and why she did not previously reveal it. They are reconciled, with their relationship stronger than before. The full story of Rikst is also revealed, brought forward by none other than Rixt herself.
A Light in the Dunes provides an interesting glimpse into life in another part of the world. The outsider might expect that those who live in remote areas may not be up-to-date, but Rixt's family has a computer and everyone wears blue jeans and is aware of everything happening on the mainland. At the same time, readers are introduced to traditions that have been preserved because of their isolation, but traditions which are also changing in the modern world.
The dialogue is believable, but Martha Attema, who is also the author of A Time to Choose, has not given the teens an American (or Canadian) attitude. The dialogue reflects their Dutch background and way of thinking as well as their 90's awareness. These qualities make the book a little different from many trade paperbacks teenagers read, but Attema keeps up the pace with an interesting plot and several subplots.
A Light in the Dunes will especially appeal to girls who like to read about heroines. Background information about Rikst and Dutch customs is contained at the book's conclusion.
Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg.
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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.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR THIS ISSUE - FEBRUARY 13, 1998.
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