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T.L. Smith.
Markham, ON: Viking Kestrel, 1986.
160pp., cloth, $12.95.
ISBN 0-670-80750-8. Distributed by Penguin Canada. CIP.

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11

Reviewed by Adele M. Fasick.

Volume 14 Number 4
1986 July

In 1797, eleven-year-old David Spencer sails with his father, a British naval captain, to explore the rugged coast of British Columbia. Life at sea is difficult with poor food, crowded quarters, and a resentful crew. When David is captured by Indians, however, he finds a much harder and more dangerous life. A cruel and powerful chieftain wants to keep David as a slave but the boy's handling of a friendly seal leads other Indians to think of him as a Spirit Child with special powers.

During the months in which David is held captive, his father, despairing of finding the boy, moves the ship further up the coast. At last, when David is about to be killed as a sacrifice, the boy attempts to escape by swimming along the coast. Just as he is about to be overtaken by Indians in their war canoe, he runs into his father's ship on its return trip and is saved.

There is suspense and adventure in this story, but the reader must turn a blind eye to the weaknesses of the plot. Credibility is stretched when David's faithful seal not only persists in staying close to the village where David is kept captive, but even follows the boy as he attempts his escape, and manages to bite the cruel chieftain's son who threatens him. Neither David, nor the reader, gains any understanding of the behaviour of the Indians, who are presented as cruel and credulous savages. The one-dimensional characters and improbably story line make this a poor choice for libraries.

Adele M. Fasick, Faculty of Library and Information Science, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON.
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