________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 1 . . . . September 4, 2009


Jimmy Comes Home. (The Green Star Lake Series, Book 1).

Robert Checkwitch.
Albany, PE: Green Star Lake Books (www.greenstarlake.com), 2007.
83 pp., pbk., $9.75.
ISBN 978-0-9730475-1-6.

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.

Review by Dana L. Coates.

**** / 4


Northern Lightning. (The Green Star Lake Series, Book 4).

Robert Checkwitch.
Albany, PE: Green Star Lake Books (www.greenstarlake.com), 2008.
103 pp., pbk., $9.75.
ISBN 978-0-9730475-5-4.

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.

Review by Dana L. Coates.

**** / 4


In the past few days, Theresa had changed her mind about avoiding Jimmy. There was no point in trying to hide from him, and she thought that by talking to him he might get involved in his son's life, which seemed like a good idea. Theresa understood why he didn't want to talk to her though. He thought she'd rejected him before he was sent to detention, but that really wasn't true. He had become too violent and was too often on drugs, alcohol and gas. She had known that she couldn't help him then. She'd been able to see that he'd changed, lost control, and she'd missed his quiet smile and his joking. The kids at school had started to avoid him back then and had been afraid of him, although he stayed away from everybody. Now, she wondered which Jimmy he really was inside. (From Jimmy Comes Home.)

A couple evenings after Paul left, Jimmy made his way across some large boulders to the middle of the main river running into Green Star Lake. As he listened to the water running past, only a few inches from his body, he began to take the mixture Paul had left with him. He soon moved into a trance more powerful and moving than any he had ever experienced. He saw brilliant images from early in his life, pictures that looked as if they were hundreds of years old. A continuous flash of rapidly changing images alternated between colours and black-and-white. Old and new images were all meshed together. Animals appeared, vying for his attention, trying to talk to him. At times they were silent, as if they were waiting for Jimmy to get up, move, make a decision. At other times, they circled Jimmy, calling out to him. Sometimes there was a brilliant array of stars in the background; sometimes a blinding sun. (From Northern Lightning.)


Jimmy Comes Home is the first of four books in Robert Checkwitch's "Green Star Lake Series." Green Star Lake is a fictional Cree community Checkwitch created with lifelike Aboriginal characters. The setting is also realistic with vivid descriptions.

     The plots of both books are clear and easy to follow. In Jimmy Comes Home, Jimmy returns home to Green Star Lake from juvenile detention. He is forced to go back to grade 9. As he attends school, he becomes confused as he doesn't want to be there, and he is also faced with problems. He is intrigued about his old friends with whom he started his offences, like violence, theft, and drugs. He is angry and guilty over the loss of his father and absence of his mother and his son, Chance, who was born while Jimmy was in detention. Jimmy is faced with major decisions and changes. His friends also experience crimes and other hard times to add to the story line.

     In Northern Lightning, the fourth book in the "Green Star Lake Series," the community sentenced Jimmy to live in the bush for three months due to his crimes during the winter. He will need to rely on hunting, trapping and fishing to survive as he is limited to the supplies he brings. As Jimmy is faced with wilderness survival, he wants to prove to himself he can make it and also to keep up with his dreams and visions he encounters. As Jimmy is in the bush, Theresa, the mother of his son, continues to go to Winnipeg to finish grade 12. However, just weeks before Theresa started school, her baby whom she had with Keith, is born. Conflicts arise between Theresa and Keith as well as other friends. Then Jimmy participates in a snowmobile race he will never forget.

     Both novels are easy to read, and Checkwitch's writing enhances the senses like being able to hear, taste, smell, feel, and see events actually happening. The books are written in third person which adds to the plots' depth and allows readers to be able to see the reactions of those around the other community members. The stories deal with real life dilemmas yet they provide hope for the characters and especially the readers. Readers will gain good insights from reading Jimmy Comes Home and Northern Lightning.

     Checkwitch has the capacity to write books set in the North because of his experiences as an educator living in northern Manitoba and Quebec. He writes from his own experiences and reaches his writing goal: "To offer novels that are relevant and set in the environment of students living in the north."

     Both Jimmy Comes Home and Northern Lightning are must-reads that adolescents will not want to put down. The books contain mild swear words, like "shit" and "asshole," that are probably commonly heard or used by the books' audiences.

Highly Recommended.

Dana L. Coates is a grade 6 teacher in Norway House, MB.

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

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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