________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 12. . . .November 20, 2015


Between Shadows.

Kathleen Cook Waldron.
Regina, SK: Couteau Books, 2015.
100 pp., trade pbk., pdf, epub & mobi, $8.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-55050-612-9 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55050-613-6 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-55050-819-2 (epub), ISBN 978-1-55050-820-8 (mobi).

Grades 5-6 / Ages 10-11.

Review by Karen Rankin.

** /4



I find a pair of nearly new work gloves and take the shovel outside, running my fingers along the smooth, wide grooves that Gramps’ fingers wore into its wooden D-handle.

Where are those raspberries me and Gramps picked and ate by the handful? Those heavy clusters of deep red berries with tiny gold whiskers, warm with sunshine, juicy sweet and crunchy with seeds, so ripe they fell into my hand. All I’ve tasted lately are ice-cold berries nicked quickly from too expensive boxes in the market.

If I clear some weeds, maybe I’ll find some berries. I start hacking tall thistles with the shovel and pulling up smaller weeds with my hands. Some surrender easily. Others fight back. I hack and pull till my arms ache.

Still no berries, but I’ve had enough weeds. Time for a break.

I down a sandwich and grab my favourite baseball cap, the Colorado Rockies one Gramps gave me. He’d never been to Colorado, but he liked the logo, said it reminded him of how rocky patches can also be beautiful. That’s Gramps for you. I head out to start exploring the only way I can – on foot.

Once I’m over the gate, I turn right, away from town. That way, if Dad and Aunt Laurel return early, they won’t ruin my adventure. I break into a trot. My feet pound the gravel road, pumping city air out, sucking forest air in. My cap slips over my eyes. I push it back. Why’d Aunt Laurel have to chop off my hair?

Left, right, left, right.
Right, left, right, left.

Beads of sweat drip down my neck.

“Hey,” a voice calls behind me. “You!”

Left, right, left.

“You, jogger boy, where are you going?”

Right, left.

“Are you deaf?” Louder this time. “I asked you where you’re going.”

Great. Even in the middle of nowhere, bullies find me. Head down, I focus on my feet.

Left, right – THWACK!

A purple mountain bike cuts in front of me and sends me sprawling.

“Is this what you runners call, ‘hitting the wall’?” says the girl on the bike now blocking my path.


Ari, 12, and his dad fly from Toronto to Vancouver shortly after the death of Ari’s grandfather, Gramps. In his will, Gramps left Ari his wilderness property. Ari loves the cabin and surrounding land. Dad has had no interest in it since Ari’s mother died in a car crash during their last visit there. Shortly after Dad and Ari arrive, they learn that Dad’s sister, Aunt Laurel, wants to sell the 160-acre property. According to Gramps’ will, if Dad and Aunt Laurel both decide to sell on behalf of under-age Ari, half of the proceeds will be divided between them. The other half will go into a trust fund for Ari when he’s older. Ari has to convince Dad and his aunt that they shouldn’t sell. Once Ari gets to know Tam – the girl on the bike in the above excerpt – he learns that she knew and liked Gramps; but, Tam calls Aunt Laurel the Road Hag because she drives like a maniac and has been hostile to the locals during the few weeks she’s lived in the cabin before Ari’s arrival. Tam shows Ari places on Gramps’ land, such as a lake with a beautiful beach. She also introduces him to other friends of Gramps. Ari becomes even more attached to the land and the people who knew and loved his grandfather. In the meantime, Aunt Laurel has convinced Ari’s father that they should sell the land. She has found a buyer – someone who wants to bulldoze Gramps’ cabin and build an upscale resort. But, with the help of his new friends, Ari manages to convince his father, and eventually his aunt, not only to hold onto the land but to try living there.

      Ari’s sense of longing for his grandfather and a life on the land he has inherited are well shown throughout the novel. However, many of his other feelings seem to lack a layer of expression that could have made them convincing, relying instead on the repetition of two or three words, such as “left, right” in the top excerpt. Tam is a brave and outgoing advocate for Gramps and everything he believed in, such as sharing one’s swimming hole with neighbours. Dad is convincingly sketched as someone emerging from a daze of loss and longing. Aunt Laurel, a hair dresser, is portrayed as a largely one-dimensional – ie: insensitive – antagonist until near the end of the story. Between Shadows has some sparkling moments such as when Ari is briefly lost in the woods, when he goes skinny dipping and gets caught by Tam and her little brother, and when the prospective buyer comes to get Dad and Aunt Laurel to sign the agreement of sale. However, the story seems to get bogged down by details that are either irrelevant or leave the reader wondering but are not developed. For instance, there is no further mention of Ari’s problem with bullies, as per the above excerpt, and Tam’s mother is “away planting trees.” Ari asks where Gramps is buried; but, when he learns that Gramps’ ashes are under Dad’s bed waiting to be scattered, the topic is dropped. The author’s love of the country life, slow-cooking, and all things natural, is palpable. However, Ari is 12 so readers of this book are likely to be younger. Observations such as the following feel as though they are for much older readers:

Eggs Benedict à la Justin comes with all the extra bacon I can eat, fresh fruit, crispy potatoes and trout with slices of hot, buttery morel. I all but lick the pattern off my plate.


Karen Rankin is a Toronto, ON, teacher and writer of children’s stories.

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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