CM . . . .
Volume VI Number 17 . . . . April 28, 2000
The girls circled the inside perimeter slowly, reverently, reaching out every now and then to touch the cool stones.A satisfying mystery for the upper elementary crowd, Sky Lake Summer finds 13-year-old Jane initially unhappy at the idea of returning yet again to her grandmother's home on Sky Lake for the summer. She would have preferred to spend time with her father, but his unsuccessful life allows no support for his daughter. Once she's there, though, the lake works its magic, and she relaxes into the cool water and hot days with her wonderful grandmother who isn't nearly as critical as her mother. Jane isn't sure if she should laugh or cry when her mother arranges for her best friend, Corrie, to visit, without clearing it with Jane first. Jess, a prickly older boy working his way through community sentencing for damaging property by wrecking a car, attracts the girls' attention and helps them solve the mystery. While going through old books for sale at the community library, Jane finds a letter dated 1930 from Eugenie Fraser, a letter that is a desperate cry for help. Eugenie fears that her husband's brother is unstable and will hurt them and their baby. Jane and Corrie figure out that the old foundation of a house on top of a cliff on an island must have been the Fraser house. They begin to try to figure out what possibly could have happened to Mrs. Fraser and her baby, led on by rumors that her husband had been murdered by his unstable brother.
The dialogue among the young people in this book is entirely natural and will make readers nod in agreement over parental protectiveness and the torture of being left out. Jane struggles to maintain her good relationship with her grandmother and her best friend while trying to establish a friendship with a new boy and come to the realization that her father will never be able to fulfil his parental obligations. The lake and surrounding rock and trees are a wonderful setting that parallels Jane's moods. One scary scene has Jane racing through the woods to get help with branches whipping her in the face as she slips on the greasy undergrowth.
Sky Lake Summer is a good novel for the late elementary student who is past reading formula mystery series but is not quite ready for more mature themes or language.
Joan Marshall is the teacher-librarian at Henry G. Izatt Middle School in Winnipeg, MB.
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