________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 10 . . . . January 18, 2002

cover Girls' Own: An Anthology of Canadian Fiction for Young Readers.

Sarah Ellis, ed.
Toronto, ON: Penguin Canada, 2001.
346 pp., cloth, $26.00.
ISBN 0-670-89344-7.

Subject Headings:
Girls-Juvenile fiction.
Children's stories, Canadian (English).

Grades 6 to 9 / Ages 11- 14.

Review by Val Nielsen.

*** /4

"Welcome to Girls' Own Girl Zone," writes Sarah Ellis, in her introduction to Girls' Own: An Anthology of Canadian Fiction for Young Readers. "The girls between these two covers are of every sort: shy and bold; obedient and rebellious; clever and slow; subdued and boisterous; fierce and gentle; funny and serious." In this anthology, Ellis has pulled together 20 pieces of writing, each of which features a protagonist who, despite differences in character, time or circumstance "... is in the process of grasping her future with both hands."

     Sarah Ellis, who has won the Vicky Metcalf Award for her body of work, is a well known and loved author of many children's and young adult books. As a librarian, book reviewer, lecturer and gifted story teller, she certainly has all the credentials to compile a collection of stories for young readers. Of the 20 pieces which make up Girls' Own, Ellis has selected 13 excerpts from novels, showing a decided preference for excerpt over short story. Each selection from a book is carefully and succinctly introduced, giving the reader a sense of the larger work's characters and settings. Some of the excerpts work very well as pieces of short fiction, notably: a section from The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis (a novel set in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime), a chapter from Jean Little's tale of life in mid 19th century Upper Canada, entitled The Belonging Place, and one from Cora Taylor's Julie, the story of a very different child. Other well-known young adult authors represented in the collection include Kit Pearson, Joan Clark, Julie Johnson and Jan Hudson. Ellis obviously knows her 11 to 14 year old audience. She has wisely kept each excerpt short enough to be finished in one sitting and has ended most of the pieces on a note which will provoke the reader to ask "...and then what happened?"

     It is something of a disappointment, however, to find that there are so few short stories in this collection. Of the seven, Tim Wynne-Jones' "The Chinese Babies" and Sarah Ellis' "Sisters" are outstanding pieces of writing, proving that development and growth of character as well as complexity of theme can be achieved a few short pages. It seems unfortunately true that while stories with male protagonists appeal equally to either sex, those whose main characters are female have scant appeal to boys. Given such gender-specific titles as Girls' Own: An Anthology of Canadian Fiction for Young Readers and its companion collection, Boys' Own: An Anthology of Canadian Fiction for Young Readers edited by Tim Wynne-Jones, it is probably safe to assume that the latter will be the more popular of the two books, particularly among teachers hunting for good stories to read aloud which will appeal to their harder-to-capture male audience. Elementary and middle-school librarians will find both volumes valuable additions to their collections of short fiction by and about Canadians.


A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364