________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 7 . . . . November 30, 2001

cover Escape the Mask.

David Ward
Markham, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2001.
171 pp., pbk., $5.99.
ISBN 0-439-98768-7.

Grades 7-9 / Ages 12-14.

Review by Christina Pike.

**** /4


"Something is wrong."


"Something is going to happen to Grassland." She was whispering, and I suddenly felt some of the fear from last night creep its way back into my stomach.

"What do you mean?"

"There have been many new Onesies coming ... There are Threesies and Foursies in the lower cages..." she muttered. "There was no search this morning, and ... the Spears have moved into the fields."

David Ward's first novel, Escape the Mask, addresses the notion of freedom. Taken from their parents and stripped of their past and their identities, the children of Grassland are forced to work as slaves, mining the sands for shards. The Spears, who stand watch to make sure the required baskets are filled, use torture and fear to ensure the order. Separated by age, the children are partnered with a member of the opposite sex with whom they share a cell. It isn't until two newcomers, Tia and Bram, arrive that Pippa and Coriko begin to question things and think about escape. Fearing being separated from their partner, fate intervenes, and a group of six put their plan of escape into action.

     Told from the viewpoint of one of the main characters, Coriko, Escape the Mask tells of the plight of six friends trying to take back their freedom. It is a journey to self-discovery and wisdom. Ward develops characters that are real and believable. Corniko is a twosie and the opposite of his partner, Pippa, who is a deep thinker. Pippa is educated and can still remember both how to read and her prayers, and she has memories of the outside world. Corniko, on the other hand, acts without thinking about the consequences. He is the protector. The conflicts that arise are physical, between the Spears and the children, as well as emotional, as each of the characters attempt to deal with his/her imprisonment and the fear of the unknown. The characters have to find their own hidden strengths and the truth of who they are - their identities.

     A novel that, once you begin, is difficult to put down. A must read.

Highly Recommended.

Christina Pike is a Learning Resource and English Teacher at Ascension Collegiate, Bay Roberts, NF.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364