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

cover My One Hundred Adventures.

Polly Horvath.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood/House of Anansi, 2008.
272 pp., pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 978-0-88899-909-2.

Subject Headings:
Children of single parents-Juvenile fiction.
Summer-Juvenile fiction.
Communities-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 7-11 / Ages 12-16.

Review by Todd Kyle.

***½ /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.

excerpt:

This week our preacher, a fat old lady named Nellie Phipps, says from her pulpit that you ought to pray all the time. Just about anything at all. It doesn't have to be sacred. And your prayers will be answered, she declares, your prayers will always be answered.

I pray for a hundred adventures. And maybe, I think, my prayers will be answered, if I pray all the time unceasingly as Nellie is telling us we should, as I walk to town and help my mother shuck oysters, as I make basket from reeds and sweep the floors or weed the vegetable garden, as I sit mooning over the movement of the wind and lying on my back, lost in the thoughtlessness of doing nothing, then there might be a response. And so I do and maybe it is because of this that it all happens.

 

Jane, 12, lives on a Massachusetts beach with her dirt-poor poet mother and three siblings. This book spans a summer when she prays for 100 adventures and gets, according to the chapter count, 14. From dropping Bibles from a stolen hot-air balloon and searching for a sacred "poodle" (portal?) with new-age wannabe preacher Nellie Phipps, to babysitting for Mrs. Gourd as blackmail after her newborn is maimed by a flying Bible, to meeting four different men that she suspects might be her father, to feeling guilty over her lack of prayer after the death of local senior Mrs. Parks, to witnessing two high-sea rescues, Jane's adventures are funny, fascinating, and, at times, very touching. The plot arcs all have varying degrees of conclusion, but the book ends with the revelation that the Gourd baby's minor injury was not Jane's fault and that her mother is marrying one of her ex-lovers and moving the family to Saskatchewan.

      Horvath is at her finest here, with a cast of unendingly fascinating characters resplendent with their blunt human fallibilities as well as with occasional acts of perfect selfless charity: before moving away, her mother offers the use of the house, rent-free, to the now-homeless Mrs. Gourd despite her deception. Characterization is superb, with quirky names like Mrs. Gourd, Mrs. Nasters, and Mr. Fordyce, not to mention her mother's very literary-named poet-lover H. K. Thomson. The narration is both matter-of-fact and over the top, and occasionally hilarious, such as when a drunk mystic named Madame Crenshaw tells Nellie to leave her collection-plate-stuffed purse with her for "safe-keeping" while Nellie and Jane search for the "poodle."

      Highly anachronistic — in fact the only indication that the book is contemporary seems to be one reference to eBay — this book, like Horvath's previous work, will not attract young teens in droves. But those that do pierce its occasionally dense prose will find their hearts touched, their minds opened, and their bodies rolling on the floor laughing.

Highly Recommended.

Todd Kyle is a former President of the Canadian Association of Children's Librarians who is currently a library branch manager in Mississauga, ON.

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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