CM . . .
. Volume XXIV Number 31. . . .April 13, 2018
The Hollow Under the Tree.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood, May, 2018.
105 pp., hc., HTML & Kindle. $16.95 (hc.), $14.95 (HTML), $14.95 (Kindle).
ISBN 978-1-55498-999-7 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-77306-000-2 (HTML), ISBN 978-1-77306-001-9 (Kindle).
Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.
Review by Myra Junyk.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
Ninety years ago, when these events occurred, parents didn’t worry so much about children being outside on their own. From a young age they walked to school alone and visited friends or went to the store to fetch a tin of baking powder or a spool of thread.
But even then, children were not supposed to be out at midnight.
Sadie did feel bad about deceiving her father, but she couldn’t see any other way. She lay in bed, already dressed, and waited for the grandfather clock in the hall to strike twelve. Then she grabbed her jacket and her canvas knapsack, and crept out of the house.
Sadie Menken and her new friend, Theodore Kendrick Junior, have a secret. Sadie finds a lion hiding in High Park near her home. The lion had been thrown from a circus train which derailed near the park. After escaping, the animal found refuge in the hollow of a tree in the middle of Toronto’s High Park. The lion kills squirrels, dogs and even a park peacock to survive. Local newspapers warn citizens about a strange “beast” wandering the park at night.
Sadie discovers the lion by accident and realizes that the animal is desperately hungry. She trades some of the damaged pies from her father’s pie-making business for meat scraps from the local butcher. However, when the butcher can no longer supply her with meat, she must find another source. She turns to Theodore, a rich but lonely young boy who longs to have friends. He provides the meat for the lion, and the two youngsters start to care for the lion. When the police want to search the park, Sadie and Theo decide to move the lion to Theo’s garage. Will the lion be discovered? How will the two young friends explain the wild animal in Theo’s garage? Can the lion be saved?
Cary Fagan has written an amusing story about Toronto in the early 20th century. Even today, High Park continues to be a very scenic location which preserves the wild natural environment in urban Toronto. Sadie is a very independent young girl who works with her father in his pie-making business and tries to find friendship where she can. In her travels, she encounters the local bullies called The Parkside Gang who attack her with a bucket of blue paint. Sadie maintains her dignity while standing up to the bullies. Her friendship with Theo is based on their shared interests as well as their own loneliness.
Young readers will definitely enjoy this novel which takes them to a different time in urban Toronto, a time when children could roam the streets to find adventure in the local park. Fagan’s easy to read prose and vivid descriptions of 1920’s Toronto tell an improbable tale of a lion living in High Park. There are many topics to explore in The Hollow Under the Tree, including: circus life, Toronto history and geography, parks, wild animal care, friendship, loneliness, bullying, adventure, and responsibility.
A resident of Toronto, ON, Myra Junyk is a literacy advocate and author.
© CM Association
University of Manitoba
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