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Barbara Smucker.
Toronto, ON: Irwin, 1985.
159pp., paper, $9.95.
ISBN 0-7725-1542-5. CIP.

Grades 5-6 / Ages 10-11

Reviewed by Susan Ratcliffe.

Volume 14 Number 2
1986 March

The message of Barbara Smucker's newest novel is clearly stated by one of the main characters: "If we destroy the earth, we destroy ourselves. We are one with the earth." She has chosen a rather unusual, and somewhat awkward narrative method to convey this theme.

May is a young, dark-skinned, dark-haired teenager, abandoned as a baby on the door-step of the Applebys, who subsequently adopted her. She thus has no knowledge of her parentage or heritage, and suffers the teasing of other kids in her Sarnia school. She feels an outcast from their society. Every summer she and her parents go to work in their nursery on the shores of Lake Michigan, but find the lake changed this year. The beaches are dirty and littered with dead fish; the water is smelly and unfit for swimming. This year too, Lee, an Indian boy from the local reserve, comes to work at the nursery. He and May gradually become the captives of a strange, swirling white mist that eventually takes them back to a time when there were virgin forests on the shores of a clean lake, a thriving lumber town, and a village of the Potawatomi Indians. They are absorbed into the village life and learn pride in their native heritage. May even meets her great-grandmother, and gains a sense of family and roots.

The awkwardness comes in the switch from the present to the past. May and Lee are surprisingly knowledgeable about every detail of the area and people of 1835. At several points in the story, one or the other of them has to give the source of their information: "I studied all winter at the Reserve library about the Potawatomi...". "I read about it in Uncle Steve's books on local history...". "Uncle Steve had told her...". Their, interest and historical retention is astonishing for their age.

The messages of the novel are strong and worthwhile; pollution and the environment, and the prejudices against native peoples. The characters are bright and attractive, but the method chosen to tell the story is too contrived and unbelievable. However, Barbara Smucker's many fans may forgive her, because of the appeal of the themes.

Susan Ratcliffe, Centennial C.V.l., Guelph, ON.
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