CM . . . .
Volume VII Number 2 . . . . September 22, 2000
As soon as they stepped away from the white fence, it was swallowed up in the storm. There seemed to be nothing in the world but the two of them, endlessly plodding along against the wind.A Winnipeg snow storm forces an early school closing. Ten-year-old Marnie chooses a short cut home that proves to be a costly mistake, and she and her seven-year-old brother, Chris, become lost. They shelter in an unfinished and unheated house. Using a fireplace to burn building scraps, they pass the cold night trying to stay awake with games and stories. A neighbour spots their smoke in the morning and summons a rescuer.
The story is quite well structured, and the pace steady. The single plot line is appropriate for the early chapter book format. The plot is fairly predictable once the children enter the house since suspense is built around the obvious - a power failure, spooky wind noises and the fire dying when they fall asleep - although this may be enough for the intended audience. With shelter, matches and fuel, the children need only wait for someone to find them. A main hardship might be hunger, but that detail is glossed over.
One awkward style aspect is the use of four 'asides,' short narratives describing how others are dealing with the storm and the news of missing children. These pages didn't work for me. They interrupt the action and shift the focus away from the children with many details that, if really necessary, could have been easily woven in elsewhere. For example, a stalled car is buried in drifts on the highway, and we hear of a neighbour who drops in on the children's mother. In fact, the final element of suspense is spoiled when we are told how the rescue will happen before Marnie has a chance to fulfil her duty and find help.
The main characters are believable, but not particularly memorable. Marnie is genuinely concerned about caring for Chris and expresses brief moments of guilt over getting them lost, but she eventually blames Chris's impulsiveness for their dilemma. The ending is rather weak as there is no dialogue with a rather transparent mother, only hugs and tears. Marnie has no chance to show whether she has grown as a result of the experience, thus minimizing the story's meaning.
A former teacher-librarian who lives in Sorrento, BC, Gillian Richardson is a published children's writer of fiction and nonfiction.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association.
Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice
is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without
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.