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Margaret Epp.
Illustrated by Ruth Wiens.

Winnipeg, Kindred Press, c1982.
(Prairie Adventure series).
Distributed by Kindred Press, 159 Henderson Hwy., Winnipeg, MB, R2L1L4.
123pp, paper, $4.95.

Grades 3 and up.
Reviewed by Elaine Atwood.

Volume 11 Number 5.
1983 September.

Sarah, living on a farm on the Canadian prairies in the early 1900s, is busy with school and family preparations for Christmas. Throughout the daily episodes, she is trying to cope with growing from a girl to a young woman.

Unfortunately, the author just misses in bringing the character of Sarah alive enough for the reader to become involved in her story. Her conflicting emotions as she grows up never quite excite one, as, all too often, they are easily overcome and she becomes the good girl she should be. An example: she strongly resents her favourite older brother's bringing a stranger from Bible school home for Christmas but is quickly won over when he plays the violin. Her conversion is too quick, too easy. The reader soon stops believing in Sarah or caring about her.

Similarly there are so many minor conflicts never fully developed that the theme of Sarah's growing up is obscured. Also, these conflicts again never quite grip the reader emotionally and are too readily resolved by everyone being nice to each other. The moral values of the author are all too evident.

Woven into the story are authentic details of western Canadian pioneer life: making soap, transportation difficulties, the importance of community social events, daily school and family life for a pre-teen girl. But these are not enough to catch the attention of pre-teen readers. The book lacks the literary devices of Joan Blos's A Gathering of Days (Scribner, 1979) or Margaret Laurence's The Olden Days Coat (McClelland and Stewart, 1979).

Written by a Mennonite woman and copyrighted by the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, one expects a better insight into the Mennonite culture, but there is little to distinguish Sarah's life from any other pioneer child. Suggested as additional purchase only in circumstances where many stories of pioneer life are needed.

Elaine Atwood, St. Albert, AB.
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