________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 30 . . . . April 10, 2015


Shack Island Summer.

Penny Chamberlain.
Winlaw, BC: Sono Nis Press, 2014.
244 pp., trade pbk. & pdf, $10.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-55039-175-6 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55039-243-2 (pdf).

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.

Review by Kay Weisman.

***½ /4


Her parents had thought after Everett was born that they couldn’t have another baby. That’s why they’d adopted her. They wouldn’t give her any details about the adoption, even when Pepper asked them directly. The only thing they’d say was that out of all the little girls they could have picked, they’d picked her. As soon as they’d seen her, they told Pepper, they knew she was going to be their own special girl.

Pepper had believed them. She’d lived with them almost her entire life. Grown up in their house. Called them Mom and Dad. She couldn’t remember anything from before the adoption. Life with her adoptive family was all she knew. And during that time Pepper had never doubted that they loved her . . . until her mom became pregnant. Then, suddenly, it seemed like they weren’t interested in her anymore. They didn’t actually come out and say it, but Pepper knew all the same.


It’s the summer of 1969, and 12-year-old Pepper is out of sorts. Mom and Dad are shipping her and older brother Everett off to spend the summer with Grandma on a small island off the coast of British Columbia. Pepper, who was adopted as an infant, is no longer certain of her place in the family. Now that her parents are having a baby of their own, will they still want her? Adding to her discomfort, life on the island is Spartan at best. Grandma’s cabin is literally a shack, without electricity or indoor plumbing. Pepper spends her time meeting other island dwellers (who range from wealthy jet-setters to draft dodgers and hippies), practicing her ESP skills, and trying to figure out who her birth parents were. Some mysterious dreams, a chance meeting with a runaway orphan, and her own insecurities all conspire to confuse her—and lead her to making some dangerous decisions.

     Chamberlain’s historical novel recalls a simpler time when it was generally safe to leave the car keys in your car, and letting your kids wander around alone on an island was not considered bad parenting. Pepper’s insecurities about her place in the family and her naiveté in general are very believable—as are the mysterious details surrounding Ray, who claims to be Pepper’s biological brother. Strong, identifiable characters and a clearly described setting are the book’s strengths and should please readers looking for an intriguing summertime read.

Highly Recommended.

Kay Weisman, a librarian and reviewer, writes “Information Matters” for School Library Monthly and works as a youth librarian at West Vancouver Memorial Library.

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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