________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 2 . . . . September 12, 2008

cover Dear Toni.

Cyndi Sand-Eveland.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2008.
129 pp., hardcover, $14.99.
ISBN 978-0-88776-876-7.

Grades 2-5 / Ages 7-10.

Review by Anna Swanson.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.


Dear Whoever You Are,

Help me! Iím being beaten and tortured and tied to a post in a burning fire. Please! Someone, please help save me! SAVE ME from certain death!!!!! According to Mr. Mackenzie, my teacher, kidsí journals are a dying art form. Well, good thing I say! Honestly, though, Iím not dying, but I am being forced to write for a hundred days. One hundred days of torture and pain. One hundred days of writing about the most boring life on the planetÖ MINE! One hundred days of writing to someone I donít even know and probably never will. One hundred days of staring at a blank page, one hundred days of the thing I hate most! ONE HUNDRED DAYS OF WRITING!


In the tradition of Ramona Quimby and Clementine, Dear Toni introduces another young spunky endearing character and her struggle to navigate the waters of school, family, friendship, and fitting in.

      Ever since her family moved south from Pelican Lake, 10-year-old Gene Tucks hasnít been the same confident joker who cracks up everyone in her class. Her dad is still looking for steady work, her family drives a pieced-together rust bucket bought from the local auto wreckers, her last haircut was a certified disaster, and the girls in her class call her ďRental Jean.Ē After three moves in one year, Gene isnít too bothered that she doesnít have any close friends in her new school. Mostly she just keeps her mouth shut to avoid making things even worse and wishes her family would move to a real home so she could have a dog to call her own.

      When her teacher announces a class project involving journals to be sealed in a time capsule in the local museum for 40 years, Gene canít imagine why anyone would be interested in her boring life. But as she opens up to the future reader she eventually names Toni, Gene not only finds her voice on the page but also begins to find her place in the world around her.

      Both the text and the presentation are highly accessible. Gene Tucks may be in sixth grade, but her struggles and quirky voice will also (and perhaps most strongly) appeal to those in younger grades. The ever-popular diary format is punctuated with energetic doodles by the author. These cartoon-like illustrations seem a little too polished to be believable as sixth grade art, but they are appealing and add to the story. This book would be a great resource for introducing a journaling, time capsule or creative writing project.


Anna Swanson, who works as a student librarian at the Richmond Public Library, is completing her Master of Library and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia.

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

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