CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 3 . . . .September 28, 2007
Ms. Zephyr's Notebook.
K. C. Dyer.
Toronto, ON: Boardwalk Books/Dundurn Press, 2007.
204 pp., pbk., $12.99.
Grades 6-10 / Ages 11-15.
Review by Libby McKeever.
Logan K. IV fluids, corticosteroids
(10th bag in 3 days, Abs. All I do is pee. L.K.)
Geez, you'd think if a person is sick enough to be in the hospital they wouldn't have to do school work. This is going to be one cheerful journal, Abbie. I hope you enjoy it. Here's the information you're after, not that you really care or anything. Let's see. Logan Kemp, age 15. Loves: Rugby, cars, computer gaming. Hates: School, this place, and most of all, my own guts. Yeah - pretty freakin' cheerful. Always looking on the bright side, that's me.
You find a bright side for me to look at and I will, Abbie. I'm supposed to be at rugby practice after school today. Instead, I'm stuck in here for who knows long. My gut is killing me and nobody can tell me why.
You told me to write about something that interests me. You know what? Nothing, interests me. Not in here, anyway. This place stinks. And I mean that literally. It stinks of Lysol or chlorine or some other kind of solvent that they use to clean up after dead people and disgusting living people who vomit all over themselves and the floor. Or those real losers who shit their pants.
Sorry, Abbie, but that one was worth it. So take my game away for an extra hour. It's not going to change the fact that one of those losers is me.
Ms. Zephyr's Notebook revolves around three patients in the children's hospital ward in the town of Evergreen. Logan had high hopes of being a rugby star until a blow to his stomach during a game uncovers the fact that he has Crohn's disease. Logan is concerned that this will prevent him from making the rugby team, and, feeling ashamed of his debilitating symptoms, he assumes that he will fail in his father's eyes.
Cleopatra (or Jacqueline as she now wishes to be called) is admitted after she falls down some stairs at school and breaks her arm. Perceived and internal pressure to be willowy and beautiful sends Cleo on a life threatening cycle of starving herself, binging and purging. Although she won't admit it, her "fainting spell" at school was really a minor heart attack. This straight "A" student is full of self-importance and has little time for Logan or Kip, the pesky kid down the hall.
The third character is Kip, or self-titled Kip the Kidney Kid, a regular in the children's ward. A congenital condition has left him with only one functioning kidney, and this time in hospital it appears that his one remaining kidney is failing. Kip is a perky, not easily deterred child who irritates Logan and Cleo initially but gradually becomes a confidant and an asset to them both.
Ms. Abbie Zephyr, the teacher in the children's ward, is responsible for helping the patients stay on top of their class work while they are in hospital. Although we never actually meet Ms. Zephyr, we understand that she is young and very supportive of her pupils. Her one requirement is daily paragraphs in her communal notebook. Failure to do this can lead to the removal of privileges. In Logan's case, this is usually time playing video games.
Logan becomes of aware of just how ill Cleo is and cannot understand how she can throw her life away willingly. After he discovers that she is throwing up in his bathroom and hiding laxative wrappers in his waste bin, Logan becomes frustrated and yells at her. Before they have an opportunity to talk again, Logan is suddenly discharged, and he is distraught when he misses a cryptic call from Cleo saying she is leaving. Worried that she may endanger her life, Logan is spurred into action. The story opens when Logan sneaks back into the hospital to read Ms. Zephyr's notebook. He feels certain that it will reveal some secret information as to where Cleo has gone. Logan's mission, with Kip's help, is to follow her and to stop her from hurting herself.
K.C. Dyer is the author of the exciting time fantasy series, "The Glen Eagle Trilogy." This new contemporary story is very engaging and addresses the difficult subject of children living with debilitating and life threatening illnesses. Apart from a scene with Cleo and her dying grandmother, all other adult encounters are just references in Ms. Zephyr's notebook. This clearly puts the characters in charge of their actions and their destinies. This theme of destiny strengthens throughout the story as the children come to terms with their illnesses, the subsequent consequences and the need to break down their protective barriers in order to allow others to help them.
Although the characters range in age from 11 to 15, the storyline is one that would have broad appeal. While there is the very occasional use of "bad" language, the content of self-awareness, internal struggles and dealing with adversity is valuable to young readers.
The cover art cleverly mimics a typical exercise book that lives in every child's desk or backpack. The result, something very familiar and yet appealing, will compel readers to pick it up. Readers will be pleased to learn that Ms. Dyer's new Canadian time travel novel, A Walk Through the Window is awaiting publication, and that she is currently working on the first novel in a new series of stories set in the United Kingdom.
Libby McKeever is a Library Technician who works in the library at Whistler Secondary School in Whistler, BC.
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