________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 20. . . .January 28th, 2010.


Facing Fire.

K.C. Dyer.
Toronto, ON: Doubleday Canada, 2010.
218 pp., pbk., $14.95.
ISBN 978-0-385-66638-1.

Subject Heading:
Canada-History - Juvenile fiction.
Indians of North America - Juvenile fiction.

Grades 6-8 / Ages 11-13.

Review by Rachel Seigel.

** / 4




Darby leaned against the stair railing and looked up at the house. She was feeling almost completely better, so she dumped the water into a small evergreen bush by the stairs and, zipping her coat up to her chin, leaned over to leave the cup on the top step. As she set the cup down, she noticed a small stone entryway tucked around to one side of the stairs. She took a step closer to look at it. No-it wasn't an entryway. Like so many of the old windows she had seen around here, it had four panes of leaded glass closely fitted inside. But it was in an odd place for a window, and on top of that, it looks strangely familiar. Fascinated, Darby put out her hand, and with the touch of a finger, the window swung open.

Darby Christopher is an average 13-year-old girl. Homework, hanging out with her friend Sarah, skateboarding and avoiding her baby sister take up most of her time, and she looks forward to spending her spring break practicing her moves. But when Darby witnesses Sarah accidentally cause a fire at their junior high, she decides to spend the break in Kingston with a family friend, hoping the story will die down. Once there, the weird, dream-like adventures of the previous summer return, and Darby is again transported back in time to witness history first-hand.

     K.C. Dyer's follow-up to 2009's Walk Through a Window picks up a few months after the events of the previous book and uses Darby's new adventures to draw parallels between historical examples of racism and intolerance and contemporary issues. Darby's friend Sarah is black, and she sees an anti-violence poster with a brown arm holding a gun as racist. Despite Darby's efforts to talk her out of it, Sarah sets fire to the poster. Darby doesn't really understand why Sarah is upset. To her, it's just a poster, and issues of race have never occurred to her. Therefore, it makes sense that the three historical events Darby witnesses all involve issues of racial prejudice.

     The events, themselves, are well chosen (Underground Railroad, Acadian Expulsion, War of 1812), and the author does a good job of bringing history to life in an interesting way. Where the book falls flat is in the contemporary story, and parts of it don't really work. Dyer's point about racial stereotyping is a valid one, but Sarah's setting fire to the poster is an extreme reaction, and an unnecessary one. Causing a fire at the school wasn't Sarah's intention, but her subsequent behaviour makes her unlikeable and detracts from the overall message. She tells lie-upon-lie to avoid blame, and her sudden about face at the end of the novel doesn't ring true. Nor does it seem reasonable that there are no consequences for her actions, and this weakens the effectiveness of the overall message. By the end of the novel, Darby does realize that she has to face up to problems and not hide from them, but she doesn't end up facing this one because it has conveniently gone away.

     Facing Fire is an easy and entertaining read, but the thin plot and lack of a satisfying resolution to the moral dilemmas take away from the merits it has a book for classroom discussion.

Recommended with reservations.

Rachel Seigel is the Selection Manager [Elementary] at S&B Books Ltd. in Mississauga, ON.

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

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.