________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 10 . . . . January 11, 2008

cover

Hidden Child.

Anne Cassidy.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2007.
169 pp., pbk., $10.99.
ISBN 978-0-545-99627-3.

Grades 7-10 / Ages 12-15.

Subject Headings:
Mothers and daughters-Juvenile fiction.
Theft-Juvenile fiction.
Homeless persons-Juvenlie fiction.

Review by Daphne Hamilton-Nagorsen.

*** /4

excerpt:

Anna had used this paper to wrap things up when she’d left the army house after Lou’s dad had been killed. Did that mean that the house was in Shoreham? Wherever that was? She found the letter and photograph in the zip compartment of the black handbag. The photograph was slightly blurred but Lou could see the face of the woman; friendly and smiling, her eyes crinkled up in the sunlight. The child was small with balloon cheeks and her hair had been pulled up into two bunches. Each had a red ribbon which matched the ties on the sailor dress. She had her hands together as though in prayer but the delighted smile on her face suggested that she might have been in the middle of clapping. Lou looked hard at the photo. Was this a photo of her, as a child? The only photo there was? The letter didn’t help much. The woman’s name was Sal. Lou said the word over a couple of time, Sal, Sally, but no memories came. Why did her mother have a letter in her bag addressed to someone else?

 

Lou and Anna, her mother, are always moving. Sometimes they move openly, sometimes in the middle of the night. This is just part of life as Lou knows it – frequent moves, never being allowed to write old friends, Anna’s occasional thefts. When Lou is 15, she and Anna move to London where Anna has a job as a warden in a women’s hostel. But Lou is beginning to have more and more questions for Anna. She wants to know more about her father who was killed in Northern Ireland. She wants to know who the man who chased them at the fair two years before was. She wants to know why Anna won’t talk about her father. And she wants to know if Anna is really her mother.

     Anne Cassidy has written a moving book about spousal abuse and its impacts on families. The impacts for Anna and Lou extend far into the future, with Anna not wanting to tell Lou about her past, and with Anna still on the run from her former husband. Other women are tracked down by their former husbands. Hidden Child also looks at the limitations on what the law can do to protect battered women. One police officer reassures a character that her former husband won’t show up because there is a restraining order in place. An hour later, the former husband shows up. This happening raises the question for the reader about how effective the current laws are at protecting battered women and their children.

     The pace of the story is excellent. The plot and characters are always moving and unfolding, but there are slower moments as well. These moments are used to add extra details, little details, like descriptions of items left behind during moves, or small details about what someone was wearing, which give a depth and richness to both the characters and their surroundings. Anne Cassidy plays very well with tension in Hidden Child. There is always a small element of tension that grows and fades depending on the characters and the events. The source of the tension varies, and sometimes it seems to be coming from everywhere. Lou’s questions are a constant source of tension. The description is also used to add tension. The man who chased Anna and Lou is just “the man” or “the man with the raincoat,” making him faceless and more threatening.

     Hidden Child is an excellent book showing the long-term impacts spousal abuse has on families, especially on children. The book draws readers in, taking them on a journey that is both sad and inspirational and always thought-provoking.

Recommended.

Daphne Hamilton-Nagorsen is a student in the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at UBC, Vancouver, BC.

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

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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