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Monica Hughes.
Toronto, ON: Irwin, 1986.
215pp., paper, $9.95.
ISBN 0-7725-1564-6. CIP.

Grades 5-7 / Ages 10-12

Reviewed by Michael Freeman.

Volume 15 Number 1
1987 January

Monica Hughes has written a brilliant historical novel that recreates life in rural Ontario from 1930 to 1942. As seen through the eyes of a bright, naive boy who ages from six to eighteen during the story, life during the depression unfolds with all its simple pleasures, and yet with poverty's pervading ugliness. Blaine maintains the optimism of youth while tragedy boils up on an almost daily basis. The family loses its farm; the mother leaves permanently for the big city (Toronto); the father too can no long live with the shame of accepting charity from his in-laws, and leaves the boy to be raised by his grandparents. The barn burns down, Blaine's first girlfriend dies of pneumonia, and still he perseveres, discovering the joys of reading, of close friends, and later, of true love.

Despite his youth, he suffers through backbreaking labour in the tobacco fields and in the broom factory, intent on earning his own way. The story takes on a more serious global nature when war breaks out, and all the young men, including Blaine, rush to enlist. The inevitable tragedies of war are balanced by Blaine's faith in human nature and his love for the girl back home.

In spite of the continua] series of depressing events, the brighter ten-to twelve-year-o]ds will find themselves carried along by the author's skill in developing B]aine's character, and in recreating the day-to-day realities of Canadian life during depression and war.

Note: The book does suffer from an unfortunate choice of packaging, as the size is awkward and the cover drawing singularly unattractive.

Michael Freeman, Bathurst Heights S.S., North York, ON.
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