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

cover Wild Girl & Gran. (Northern Lights Books for Children).

Nan Gregory. Illustrated by Ron Lightburn.
Calgary, AB: Red Deer Press, 2000.
32 pp., cloth, $18.95.
ISBN 0-88995-221-3.

Subject Headings:

Grade 1 and up / Ages 6 and up.

Review by Valerie Nielsen.

*** 1/2/4


Wild girl crouches high up in the branches of her favourite oak tree; she is a princess, a pirate, a cowboy. She calls down from her perch, "Climb up, Gran..."

"Too old," says Gran...You do the climbing. I'll knit sunset." She settles down and hauls out her yarn. Tickety tick her needles say, chattering over a scarlet square.

"Ask me where I am, Gran."

"Where are you?"

"Castle keep," I say.

"Dungeon deep," says Gran. She has the key!

Gran and her Wild Girl granddaughter are kindred spirits. When Gran comes to live with the family, the two spend happy hours in and beneath the giant oak tree. While Wild Girl inhabits her fantasy world high up in the branches, Gran sits at the foot of the tree knitting squares she calls Sparks on the Sea, Bee Song and Shooting star. Theirs is a wonderful, whimsical friendship, but, all too soon, her "old pal" falls ill and leaves Wild Girl with only a pile of colourful knitted squares to ease her loneliness. When spring comes, Wild Girl and her mother walk through the woods toward the giant oak tree to scatter Gran's ashes along the trail.

     "When I was a little girl like you, and your gran was my mama... Mom's stories come out, scraps and squares, higgledy-piggledy, out of her mouth...Tears well out of us and trickle down. Grins tickle up and bubble out. Gran would love this!" Together Wild Girl and her mother will keep Gran's spirit alive with their love and their memories.

     Wild Girl & Gran is a beautifully written story, the text closer to poetry than prose. Once again, the author-illustrator team of Nan Gregory and Ron Lightburn (whose award-winning picture book, When Smudge Came, captured the hearts of so many readers) have created a story where text and illustrations complement each other perfectly. Lightburn's glorious double-spread oil paintings depict each season and mood of this tender story wonderfully.

     There is nothing cliched or predictable in the writing or illustrating of Wild Girl & Gran. On the whole, little ones under the age of six will not be ready for this book Indeed, it will require a sensitive teacher with a secure understanding of her/his students' emotional readiness to read Nan Gregory's story aloud to a group of children. Responses may well include tears, painful memories or expressed fears of death. Older primary students will be better able to handle the sadness of the theme and to understand its more complex elements. Grandparents should be fairly warned that reading Wild Girl & Gran to their grandchildren in a steady voice will be a challenge.

Highly Recommended.

A grandmother herself, Valerie Nielsen is a retired teacher-librarian who lives in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364