RL_-_logo2.gif (25999 bytes)

Feature Column - Resource Links V. 9, # 1, October 2003 

Adult Books for Teenage Readers: A Contemporary Canadian Sampler

Margaret Mackey


Joanne de Groot, Gail de Vos, Heather Ganshorn, Merle Harris, Ingrid Johnston,

Elaine Jones, and Jill Kedersha McClay

For the eighth time, we offer our annual selection of contemporary Canadian adult fiction with the capacity to appeal to strong teenage readers. As usual, the focus is on stories of potential interest to young readers; there are many excellent new novels about middle-aged protagonists and issues, but these we have largely omitted. We have tried to sample a broad range of topics and genres, and, as has been the case since we started this ongoing project, we have been spoiled for choice with the abundance of good Canadian materials on offer.

We do not put these books through any kind of filter that would eliminate strong language, disturbing images, or troubling issues. Our view is that anyone capable of reading these books is able to handle what comes along. Teenagers are robust readers and we see no reason to offer them less than the full range.

Reviewers are identified by initials, and, as usual, I would like to thank the group of librarians, teachers and storytellers who have worked together to produce this column. MM


Contemporary Questions

Pattern Recognition by William Gibson. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons.

Hardback. 356 pages. 0-399-14986-4

This absorbing book could hardly be more contemporary. Cayce Pollard is a young woman so sensitive to brand symbols and icons that she is worth a fortune to international companies trying to work out the next big trend so they can cash in on it. Cayce is also one of a small set of people known as footageheads. Obsessed by obscure film extracts that appear mysteriously on the Internet, they correspond about potential meanings. It doesn't take too long before one of the world's master entrepreneurs notices the marketing talent that has made the footage so irresistible to cool people. He enlists Cayce's help in tracking down the source of these films, and the result is a page-turning thriller with an obscure but rather satisfying ending.

Globe-trotting Cayce takes in the world's response to the events of September 11, 2001, with an eye made sharp by pain: her father disappeared in New York City that day. They must presume him dead, yet his family had no inkling that he would go anywhere near the World Trade Center. Curiosity about her father's last hours (if indeed he is truly dead) is another hook that engages Cayce's rarefied attention.

It is difficult to imagine how one might read this book without a fairly solid grasp of the Internet Age and its many new conventions and rules for social engagement. Gibson takes on much of the strangeness we now take for granted; this book is not science fiction in the strict sense of the word but it succeeds in making our own world feel like something invented.

An intriguing story. MM

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2003. Hardback. 392 pages. 0-771-00868-6

Margaret Atwood's latest book is both fascinating and chilling. Oryx and Crake is a science fiction novel set in an all-too-believable future where biotechnology has run wild and obsessive attempts at genetic engineering, together with dire climatic changes, have left the earth as a virtual wasteland. As one of the few survivors of humanity as we know it, "Snowman"

(formerly called Jimmy) gradually reveals the story of how the earth was ruined and a new human-like species developed. The early chapters are somewhat ponderous as we learn about Snowman's struggle for existence, but soon the action and tension increase as the ominous story of exploitation, greed and misused technology unfolds. The characters of the three protagonists are developed with finesse, and Atwood offers intriguing insight into the dysfunctional relationships between Crake, the brilliant megalomaniac, Jimmy, the naïve egotist and Oryx, the beautiful and enigmatic former child prostitute. This is not a happy read, and it is likely to leave readers disturbed, but it is imaginative and clever, and Atwood's metaphoric and witty writing style succeeds in relieving the novel from total bleakness. IJ

Home Stories

Downhill Chance by Donna Morrissey. Toronto: Penguin, 2002. 428 pages. Paperback. 0-14-303360-3.

Fans of Morrissey's best-selling first novel, Kit's Law, will not be disappointed with Downhill Chance. Like Kit's Law, Downhill Chance has the feel of small-town gossip - where the teller relishes discussing the juiciest, 'warts-and-all' business of the neighbours, but all with an undertone of affection and deep familiarity.

Downhill Chance is set in two isolated outport communities in pre-Confederation Newfoundland during and after the Second World War. The novel centers on Clair Gale but it is really the story of two families, the Osmonds from Rocky Head, and the Gales from The Basin. The two families are connected by the war and marriage and threatened by secrets from the past.

Like many family sagas the story moves in and out of melodrama and the secrets that supposedly drive the plot are not all that difficult to figure out. The story is sustained, however, by strongly realized characters, wonderful dialogue and a setting that is depicted to be both familiar and exotic. In the end, you care as much about these close communities as about the people, and you are left understanding just a little bit more how a remote war that is "no place for a thinking man" can have a lasting effect on a family and a community. EJ


A Rhinestone Button by Gail Anderson-Dargatz. Toronto: Knopf Canada, 2002. Hardback. 319 pages. 0-676-97549-6

In the small farming community of Gosfinger, Alberta, Job Sunstrum lives a solitary existence, raising cattle and farming, like his father and grandfather before him. Yet the surrounding pastures do not hold much attraction for him. Instead he prefers his humble farmhouse kitchen where cooking, baking, and even washing dishes, give him great satisfaction. As if this isn't enough to set Job apart, his blond curls and young face, as well as a phenomenon called synaesthesia, which gives Job the extraordinary ability to see and feel sound in dazzling colours or shapes, all make him a target for the other locals.

Even Job's religious faith is put to the test when his proselytizing brother, Jacob, along with his bossy wife and arsonist son, moves back into the family farmhouse. With them they bring the Pentecostal fervour of a visiting evangelist by the name of Jack Divine. At Jacob's urging, the impressionable Job enlists as one of Divine's followers. However, Job's immersion into the Christian life leads him to wonder what his chances are for love of a more earthly nature. But where might he find love? At the Ponoka auction? On "Loveline," a call-in radio show? At the Out-to-Lunch Café?

In A Rhinestone Button, Gail Anderson-Dargatz transports readers to small town, rural Alberta and creates characters full of magic and humour. Readers will be drawn into the lives of these characters and be sorry to turn the last pages of the book and say good-bye. JdG

The Sudden Weight of Snow by Laisha Rosnau. Toronto: McClelland &

Stewart, 2002. Hardback. 341 pages. 0-7710-7580-4

This novel is narrated by Harper, who is seventeen and desperate to break out of the confines of her small-town life in British Columbia. Every second chapter, however, is entitled "Gabe" and is told in the second person ("When your memories begin, you live between two vans.") 

When Gabe shows up in Harper's own first-person story, readers can begin to make connections between the two threads of the story, but it is not till late in the book that the narrative logic of this unusual format becomes clear.

Harper is oppressed by the conventions of life in Sawmill Creek, caught between school, church, and her mother's dissatisfactions. Yet her revolt is not melodramatic or unbelievable; the alienation between the girl and her mother is never enough to eliminate the binds that also hold them together. The complexity of different forms and definition of family life are one of the major attractions of this book.

Harper and Gabe are drawn together but by different imperatives. How their relationship flowers and fades is the other strong element in this story.

The result is an engrossing read. MM

The Perpetual Ending by Kristen den Hartog. Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 2003. Cloth. 276 pages. 0-676-97457-0

This novel opens with a quotation from the Gospel of St. Thomas: "On the day when you were one you became two. But when you become two, what will you do?" This is the question that has haunted Jane, the protagonist, for most of her life. She and her identical twin Eugenie lead an idyllic small-town existence in Deep River, Ontario. As twins, they are bound by a special feeling of oneness. When they are ten, their life is changed by their mother's decision to leave their alcoholic father and move to Toronto, taking them with her. Eugenie thrives in their new home, but Jane is appalled by the dirtiness and poverty of the big city, and homesick for her father and her small town. When their father shows up in Toronto, begging them to come home with him, Jane convinces Eugenie to come - a decision that will change their lives. Driving back to Deep River, their father gets into a car accident, and Eugenie is killed. Jane moves through the rest of her life with a sense of incompleteness and loss, unable to really connect with anyone. "Twins who lose a twin are always looking," she explains. She grows up, leaves home, and begins earning a living as a writer of magical stories, many involving twins or characters who are searching for their other half. She falls in love with Simon, an illustrator, but her grief for her sister prevents her from loving him completely. When she receives news that her mother is dying, Jane is forced to explore her past and lay her sister's ghost to rest.

Though the story contains its share of sadness, it is brightened by Jane's happy memories of her childhood, and by the resolution she reaches at the end. Jane's stories, embedded within the novel, are also enjoyable for their magic realism. HG

A Hard Witching and Other Stories by Jacqueline Baker. Toronto: HarperFlamingoCanada, 2003. 181 pages. Hardback. 0-00-200534-4

This is a very impressive debut collection. Baker has written eight strong stories of contemporary rural life linked by setting and theme. You can't read these stories without feeling the heat and dryness of southwestern Saskatchewan and coming to some understanding of how this often harsh environment shapes the people who live there. The people who do live there, in Baker's fiction, in the towns and on the farms bordering the Sand Hills, are children, teens, young married couples, old, newly widowed, single, social outcasts, immigrants. Baker writes with honesty and assurance about this varied cast. Each character is a completely realized and distinct individual who you come to know intimately, yet as you move from story to story you can see how they are all struggling to understand or come to terms with their place in the family, the community and the world. Each story stands alone, but truly gains power when read as part of the collection.

Teens who like reading about relationships and who enjoy thoughtful, somewhat enigmatic fiction, will find something to speak to them here. EJ

Souvenir of Canada by Douglas Coupland. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2002. Paperback. 144 pages. 1-55-54-917-0

Coupland calls his book "a very personal x-ray of Canada," and this description nicely sums up this very unusual production. In a series of essays and illustrations, including eleven still life photographs created by Coupland himself, the book outlines one man's take on what makes life in Canada distinctive. He makes a point of using Canadian images and a kind of linguistic shorthand that is most meaningful to those who already know what he is talking about. It would be interesting to have an outsider's view of this book; to a non-Canadian it might seem impenetrable, not very interesting, and entirely self-indulgent. To this Canadian reader, it was surprisingly satisfying in its eclectic assemblage of ideas and images. When I began to read it, I was wary of having simple-minded nationalism rammed down my throat, but Coupland is dealing with something much, much more subtle. In his scrapbook of small, everyday details of Canadian life, he reminds us of the substance and fabric of what we take for granted. The result is a book that provokes not only reflection on what matters to us but also a strong urge to start collecting one's own personal scrapbook of important images and ideas. A surprisingly successful book. MM

Exploration and Adventure

The Navigator of New York by Wayne Johnston. Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 2002. Hardback. 486 pages. 0-676-97532-1

Johnston's newest book offers a mix of real-life and fictional characters, in ways that resemble but are not identical to his earlier hybrid of fiction and non-fiction in The Colony of Unrequited Dreams. In his new novel, he recounts a version of the race to be the first white man to reach the North Pole. Historical figures such as Robert Peary and Frederick Cook share the pages of the book with the fictional Devlin Stead, whose coming of age is a major theme of the novel.

Devlin is born and raised in St. John's, Newfoundland, but is always an outsider, especially after his father disappears in the Arctic on one of Peary's expeditions, and his mother drowns off Signal Hill. When Frederick Cook, Peary's rival, writes to inform Devlin that he is his real father, Devlin is only too happy to move to New York and prepare for a Northern expedition. Johnston does an excellent job of conveying the claustrophobic gossip of St. John's and the brash bustle of Manhattan around the turn of the twentieth century, as well as the looming emptiness of the Arctic; his settings are always a major element of the narrative.

Johnston is a skilful storyteller and this book is engaging from beginning to end. The weaving of fiction into history is subtly accomplished and allows the author to provide new forms of life to an old story. MM

Life of Pi by Yann Martel. Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2002 (first published 2001). Paperback. 354 pages. 0-676-97377-9

By now this book needs little introduction. It won Britain's Mann-Booker Prize in 2002, only the third Canadian winner in the history of the award. Many people will therefore be aware that it tells how Pi Patel, aged 16, and a man-eating tiger named Richard Parker triumphantly survived an ocean crossing on a lifeboat. Pi's grief at losing his family when their ship went down is sharply overwhelmed by his need to find ways to manage a large carnivore in a small space. He relates his adventures on the ocean with a mix of seafaring expertise and philosophical reflection. The result is a read that is both rollicking and thought-provoking, a relatively unusual combination. Knowing that Pi is telling his own story ought to reduce a reader's suspense about whether or not he manages to survive, but the book is a page-turner for all that. Martel's light touch with themes that it might be fair to describe as "meaty" is engaging and appealing. MM

An Inexplicable Story or The Narrative of Questus Firmus Siculus by Josef Skvorecky. Translated from the Czech by Kaca Polackova Henley. Toronto: Key Porter, 2002. Hardback. 179 pages. 1-55263-368-3

The actual narrative of Questus runs from page 12 to page 100 of this quirky book. It is revealed in a very fragmentary and elliptical way, as the scrolls relating his story have been imperfectly preserved. Three pages of preface and 79 pages of end matter are devoted to trying to make sense of this story, which does seem very unlikely on the face of it. Questus was a first-century Roman but his manuscripts were discovered in Honduras, and the mystery of how they crossed the Atlantic is one of the enigmas of this strange but entertaining story. Layers upon layers of fictional explanation attempt to persuade readers that it all really happened.

Individual readers bring their own life to any story, filling in gaps in the text with their own understanding of the world. Readers of the story of Questus will find their gap-filling talents fully stretched, as, time after time, his story fades away in mid-sentence. It sounds frustrating but it winds up being an intriguing form of challenge. A panoply of pseudo-scholarly footnotes and endnotes add to the joke of the whole preposterous framework, but also raise serious questions about how historical understanding develops.

A basic grasp of the most famous elements of Augustan Rome would probably be helpful to a reader, but the truly essential information is conveyed within the book itself. The whole premise of this book sounds utterly unlikely and unappealing, but it actually is an enjoyable read. Questus is an engaging hero, gaps and all, and the extended set of frame stories at the end add their own frisson to the whole experience. MM

Times Past and Present

A Tourist's Guide to Glengarry by Ian McGillis. Erin, Ontario: The Porcupine's Quill, 2002. Paperback. 185 pages. 0-88984-246-9

This is a book for anyone who has forgotten what it is like to be nine years old. It is set in a single day, October 13, 1971, in an Edmonton neighbourhood that is evoked in loving detail. Neil is fascinated by many things: the upshot of the upcoming World Series, the chance that he will ever get a Roberto Clemente baseball card, the many strange and even sinister doings of his lively neighbours and classmates. He is, however, quite oblivious to important elements of his own family life, and indeed spends much of his time in a daze. The result is a book that is comical, convincing, and generous in its appeal. Neil's story would be quite ridiculous if it weren't so persuasively real. The specific details of that particular day in that particular location are lovingly evoked in the cause of a more universal description of what it is like to be a kid. The result is a triumph. MM

The Lost Garden by Helen Humphreys. Toronto: HarperFlamingo Canada, 2002.

Paperback. 182 pages. 0-00-200511-5

The many readers who loved Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden as children will almost certainly enjoy this adult version of a story about a garden known to no one but the heroine. Humphreys sets her story in the time of the Second World War. Gwen is a horticulturist who has volunteered to organize a group of land girls, despite her lack of skill in dealing with people. Her initial encounters with the girls in her charge, and with the soldiers awaiting posting to Europe, are awkward and confirm all her self-doubts. But her discovery of the garden buried deep in the estate on which she is working marks a turning point in her life.

Like Burnett, Humphreys is lyrical in her description of earth, plant and blossom. As with Burnett's garden, Humphreys' is a source of joy and healing. This is a sad book in many ways but the power of the garden is compelling. MM

The Corner Garden by Lesley Krueger. Toronto: Penguin Canada, 2003. Paperback. 323 pages. 0-14-301273-8.

This is a thoroughly gripping and intelligent novel that weaves together themes involving passion, betrayal, isolation, and the desperation to believe in something larger than oneself. Told primarily through two narrative voices - those of 15-year old Jessie Barfoot and her elderly neighbour Martha van Tellingen - the novel takes place in contemporary Toronto and the Nazi-occupied Amsterdam of Martha's youth. Jessie is smart, funny, well read, and highly cynical about the "New Start" her mother and new step-father want to make in Toronto. Martha has lived for fifty years in isolation with her beautiful corner garden, harboring the secrets of her youthful allegiance to the Hitler Youth and the lies that enabled her and her father to emigrate to Canada after the War. While the young girl seeks truth and meaning, the older woman has spent a lifetime barricading herself from truth and living under a false identity. She has cultivated a beautiful garden, which conceals the truth of her life.

The narrative unfolds through multiple diaries: those of Jessie and Martha as 15-year olds, of the elderly Martha, and of a teen who was Martha's contemporary during the War. Krueger writes masterfully in the varied voices, with careful and witty attention to the language of self-conscious narrators. She details the disturbing relationship of Jessie and the elderly Martha with subtlety and force, as the young Canadian girl makes false assumptions about Martha's life and wisdom. This novel stays in one's mind long after the final page has been read. JKM

The Paperboy's Winter by Tim Bowling. Toronto, Ontario: Penguin Canada, 2003. 288 pages. Paperback. 0-14301-228-2

One of the things that intrigued me when I first came to Canada was the paper route, which I took for a Canadian rite of passage. Bowling, with his poet's eye, strong imagery and three-dimensional characters, fully captures the sudden rush of freedom that comes to a ten year-old with his first paper route in this evocative novel.

As a disillusioned adult, Callum Taylor is on a visit to his much-changed childhood home when he recognizes a familiar face from the past - Ezra Hemsworth, an eccentric fisherman. This opens the floodgates of memory and takes him back to the winter of 1976 in the B.C. fishing village.

Callum and his friend Jerris are convinced Ezra is caught up in some illegal dealings and they spend much of that winter following him by bicycle. Woven in with this intrigue is his everyday life, his family, school with the equally eccentric school principal who holds Lester B. Pearson up as a perfect model to the students, an array of fascinating village characters and the goings on at the "paper-shack." A funny and nostalgic novel that stays in the reader's memory. MH


Final Season by Wayne Arthurson. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan: Thistledown Press, 2003. 253 pages. Paperback. 1-8943-548-7.

Wayne Arthurson's first novel takes place between Grand Rapids and Norway House, two small communities in the northern part of Lake Winnipeg, five hours highway travel from the city. The story starts "two years ago", with two men carrying the body of Barry Fency to a boat in the lake with the main character, Albert Apetagon, "questioning his motives" which becomes a recurring motif throughout the book.

The novel revolves around sixty year-old Albert who is faced with the realization that after forty years as a fisherman, this could be his final season, his Native-European ancestors, a deal the Band is about to sign with Hydro, and his friendship with Barry Fency and his son.

The story is interwoven between life in the present and flashbacks which introduce readers to a variety of interesting and well developed characters - both family and friends - all of whom reflect the slow pace, humour, and work ethic of this small and closely-knit community.

Arthurson's descriptions of the remote landscape, the aftermath of a forest fire, and the changing moods of the lake are both compelling and visual and one comes away with a strong sense of what life is like in a remote community and why the people live there. MH

Tales of Love and Loss

The Romantic by Barbara Gowdy. Toronto: HarperFlamingoCanada, 2003. Hardback. 372 pages. 0-00-200505-0

Barbara Gowdy's latest book is a page-turner that allows its readers to empathize with Louise Virk, the heroine, and to gain new insights into the power of love and the sadness of obsession. We know from page one that Abel, the object of Louise's devotion, dies as a young man, and we are immediately drawn into Louise's multifaceted memories of Abel and the largely unrequited love that characterizes their relationship.

At age nine, Louise is abandoned by her one-time beauty queen mother, who walks away from her family, leaving only a note on the fridge that reads "I have gone. I am not coming back. Louise knows how to work the washing machine." Louise, left alone with her grieving and distracted father, contrives to have her neighbour adopt her and soon transfers all her attention and devotion to Abel, the neighbour's quiet and intelligent son. For the rest of book, we follow Louise's struggle to deal with her obsessive love for Abel and to come to terms with her own loneliness.

Despite its melancholy themes, the book is filled with Gowdy's sense of humour, which lifts the story above pathos and sadness. Her writing is light and interesting to read and she succeeds in making her characters come to life. The Romantic is an enjoyable and haunting read about love and loss and should have a wide appeal. IJ

Translations/Aistreann by Tammy Armstrong. Regina, Saskatchewan: Coteau Books, 2002. Paperback. 369 pages. 1-55050-203-4

This is a gritty and interesting novel that moves between small town New Brunswick and Dublin, Ireland. Julia O'Casey has moved from the Maritimes to be with her husband and children in Dublin. Dan O'Casey, a teacher at Trinity College, persuades Julia that she should have the university education she was earlier denied. Now she is involved in translating the Gaelic diaries of her ancestor, Cora, and learning new secrets about her past. At the same time, Julia's marriage is in danger of falling apart, as she learns new secrets about Dan and his relationships. In a fit of anger, Julia takes the children and returns to New Brunswick, where she tries to sort out her life and her feelings.

Tammy Armstrong is a writer who can be both lyrical and earthy. In this novel, she offers readers the intimate and often gritty details of Julia and Dan's personal lives and their association with family, friends and colleagues. Interspersed with the personal aspects of present day experiences, are the reclaimed words of past generations in the Gaelic diary, coming alive through translation. Armstrong explores the ability of the past to place the present in a new perspective and to bring peace to a shattered relationship. IJ


Waifs and Strays by Charles de Lint. New York: Viking, 2002. Hardcover. 394 pages. 0-67003-584-X

This collection of previously published stories by de Lint, a 13-time nominee for the World Fantasy Award, is a fantastic addition to any fantasy collection. De Lint's teenage heroines inhabit an amazing variety of settings, from a gothic mansion in "Merlin Dreams in the Mondream Wood," to a modern North American city in the Newford stories, to a futuristic fantasy city inhabited by humans and elves in the Bordertown stories. As different as these settings are, they all have one thing in common: they are places where the ordinary world touches on another, magical realm. De Lint's pioneering brand of urban fantasy is a welcome relief from the clichéd pseudo-medieval realms that usually characterize the fantasy genre. As the title suggests, most of de Lint's heroines are misfits and outcasts, sometimes poor and homeless, often looking for love and acceptance while refusing to conform to a conservative society's expectations. If any criticism can be made of the stories, it is that there is a certain sameness to all of the protagonists: all girls, most with a streak of rebelliousness. It would have been interesting to see what de Lint could do with a male protagonist. Still, this is a collection that will appeal to teens of both genders. HG

Tapping the Dream Tree by Charles de Lint. New York: TOR, 2002. Hardback. 541 pages. 0-312-87401-4.

In his most recent collection of short stories about the characters and inhabitants of his created city, Newford, de Lint continues to examine the power of stories, words, music, belief and magic in the contemporary landscape. This compilation contains eighteen stories, seventeen of which have been published in various periodicals and limited edition chapbooks and one original to the collection. The final story, a novella, is the text for de Lint's book Seven Wild Sisters illustrated by Charles Vess and included in last year's column.

While the characters may be older than young adults, their search for identity, belonging, choices and value systems make them and their stories, mostly written in first person, easily accessible for a young adult audience. The believable voices, male and female, bring these characters, many already familiar to de Lint audiences, alive in their individual searches for something in which to believe. Devils, angels, shape changers and little folk freely intermingle with individuals who are purportedly more firmly rooted in the reality in which we are familiar. De Lint does not offer platitudes and easy answers but the underlying message in all these tales is hope and contentment for individuals who are lost or still searching for their direction through the bewildering and maze-like pathways in our often-overwhelming universe. GdV


Un by Dennis Lee. Toronto: Anansi, 2003. Paperback. 61 pages. 0-88784-685-8

Readers who have grown up with Dennis Lee's poems for children will not be surprised to discover that this slim book of poems plays many word games. Those who know Lee only through the exuberance and glee of his children's poems may, however, be surprised at the ferocity that fuels many of these short, complex poems. The first poem launches a countdown: "4, 3, 2, 1, un" (3), and Lee plays with the role of "un" in many aspects of contemporary life. "The earth is in shock. You must bear it," he says (45), and this bleak perspective informs many pages in this book. But not all: gleams of gratitude for life itself also shine through the tumult of his elaborate and pessimistic word play. For example, he says, "yet how/dumbfound how/dazzled, how/mortally lucky to be" (42); "to/be," he says on another occasion, "is a bare-assed wonder" (23). Overall, however, it is the fearsomeness of our predicament that engages his apprehensive attention and his visceral language. MM

An Ark of Koans by E.D. Blodgett. Illus. Jacques Brault. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2003. Paperback. 68 pages. 0-88864-404-3

E.D. Blodgett also celebrates miracles and mysteries of life, and also plays with language, but in most other ways his book of poems is in complete contrast. A koan is an apparently meaningless puzzle designed to heighten awareness of truth, a term from Zen Buddhism. Blodgett's choice is to create little quatrains about different animals, and the extreme discipline of his form contributes to the paradox of broad meaning compressed and expressed in a small space. His observations about the different birds and animals are delightful when taken individually; put together they create a vast sense of the richness of life on earth. A very appealing short collection. MM

Surrender by Roy Miki. Toronto: The Mercury Press, 2001. Paperback. 131 pages. 1-55128-095-7

Roy Miki's poetry book, winner of a Governor General's Literary Award, is a fascinating collection of poems written over a period of time and in various geographical locations, ranging from Canada to Australia. His poems explore a variety of themes, from the political and historical, to the lyrical and the ironic. Miki brilliantly engages with the Canadian Japanese internment during World War l1, the banality of modern life, and the power of language to explore identity. His poems interact in intriguing ways, through dialogue, antiphony and creative spacing and balancing of words and phrases. Miki writes, "This thing called language is a maudlin affair" (p. 84). In his collection of poems, Miki effectively shapes language to explore ideas, emotions, memories and historical events in original and pleasing ways. IJ



That Sleep of Death by Richard King. Toronto: Dundurn Group, 2002. Paperback. 304 pages. 0-88882-229-4

Many mystery novels benefit from a strong sense of local setting, and this book is no exception to that rule. Sam Wiseman is an independent bookseller whose shop borders the grounds of McGill University in Montreal. Author Richard King, not co-incidentally, is a co-founder of Librarie Paragraphe Bookstore, which occupies a similar position in the city geography.

The details of a bookseller's life and the specifics of the Montreal setting both enhance this story considerably. The mystery itself follows many conventional lines (not a bad quality for a genre novel) and exploits the author's familiarity with the raw material in interesting ways. Occasionally Sam Wiseman gains police confidence and slides into interviews he is very unlikely to be allowed to attend more easily than a stern reader would find realistic. However, this is not the first mystery novel to err on the side of broad access by the sleuth to the kinds of essential information needed to solve the mystery. While it is a trifle predictable in places, this book is charming and bodes well for the sequels that are promised. MM



A Loonie for Luck: A True Fable about Hockey and the Olympics by Roy MacGregor (Forward by Wayne Gretzky). Illustrated by Bill Slavin. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 2002. Hardcover. 95 pages. 0-7710-5480-7

This short book tells the true story of the Canadian loonie hidden under the ice at the E Center in Salt Lake City, Utah for the 2002 Olympic Games. When both the Canadian women and men won Olympic Hockey gold medals, their secret weapon was not ON the ice, but rather UNDER the ice, hidden there by Canadian icemaker Trent Evans. Roy MacGregor, a Canadian journalist, author, and hockey enthusiast has created a wonderful tale that follows Wayne Gretzky, Trent Evans, and the men's and women's teams through their time at the Olympics. It pays tribute to the role of superstition and chance in hockey - a part of the sport that is not always acknowledged, but one that brings real magic to the sport.

Beginning the story with how the loonie came to be in Trent Evans' pocket and then how it came to be buried at centre ice, Roy MacGregor also tells how, throughout the Games, the loonie was in danger of being uncovered as the secret began to spread, and how, as the tournament progressed, with the players in need of every break they could get, the good luck miraculously held.

This is a perfect book for reluctant readers because of its short length and easy style. Hockey fans, too, will be delighted with the behind-the-scenes look at the 2002 Olympic Hockey tournament. I highly recommend this wonderful little book for young adult readers. JdG

top.jpg (2260 bytes)

Editor: Victoria Pennell