CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 2 . . . . September 16, 2005
Ellen: The Waiting Time. Book Three. (Our Canadian Girl).
Dorothy Joan Harris. Illustrated by Janet Wilson.
Toronto, ON: Penguin Canada, 2005.
88 pp., pbk., $8.99.
World War, 1939-1945-British Columbia-Vancouver-Juvenile fiction.
Grades 3-6 / Ages 9-11.
Review by Gillian Richardson.
Reviewed from uncorrected proofs.
Patsy Greenwood came running up to them, obviously bursting with news.
"You're friends with Marjorie Wells, aren't you?"Patsy asked.
"Yes....why?" said Ellen."What's wrong with her?"
"She has polio!" Patsy exclaimed. Her face showed how pleased she was to be the bearer of such important information.
"Polio? How do you know that?" Ellen demanded.
"I know because my father's a doctor and he told me," said Patsy.
Ellen and Amy looked at each other in horror.
“Polio?" Ellen whispered again.
The radio broadcasts and the newspapers had been full of stories all summer about polio: how it was a virus that spread quickly in the hot weather and how it seemed to strike mostly children.... now their friend had it?
The war in Europe has dragged on for a year, and Ellen has learned to cope with food rationing. The threat of polio hangs heavily over the end of summer, and Ellen's friend Marjorie has fallen victim to the virus. Ellen is anxious when she develops a sore throat, but it's diagnosed as tonsillitis. During the boring weeks of recuperation at home, she worries about the possibility of her father going to war, censorship of her friend Will's letters, the suffering of others (a war guest arrives in her class after escaping the bombing in England, and her mother recruits her to knit scarves for soldiers overseas) and whether she'll need an expensive operation to remove her tonsils. Finally back at school, she is shunned by a classmate who won't go near "anybody with germs." Ellen is determined to stand by Marjorie when she eventually returns to school.
This third story of Ellen in the “Our Canadian Girl” series will be of interest to readers who have followed Ellen's story through the previous two books and become familiar with this young person growing up during the war years. It may not attract readers looking for a high action plot. Instead, this slow paced story focuses on Ellen's perspective of day to day life before there was a vaccine for polio, prior to the development of antibiotics for quick cures for infections, and when the telephone was an expensive luxury few could afford. Ellen's concerns highlight realities that young readers may compare with their own lifestyle today. The underlying theme of tolerance and understanding for others facing trying times runs through all the books in this series and will promote discussion in a classroom setting. Teachers of middle grades may recommend the book to support a unit on war from the viewpoint of those waiting at home.
Living in BC, Gillian Richardson is a former teacher-librarian and freelance children's writer.
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