________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 6. . . .October 8, 2010


Hannah & the Spindle Whorl.

Carol Anne Shaw.
Vancouver, BC: Ronsdale Press, 2010.
241 pp., pbk., $10.95.
ISBN 978-1-55380-103-0.

Subject Headings:
Vancouver Island (B.C.)-Juvenile fiction.
Salish Indians-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.

Review by Kris Rothstein.

**½ /4



My heart is pounding as I reach the rock face. I drop to the ground and squeeze myself in through the cave opening, all in a matter of seconds. I wait for my eyes to adjust to the darkness ahead of me. I inch farther and farther into the damp stillness of the cave, leaving behind the only sliver of light coming from the cave opening. Ugh! It's so dark and I can't stop thinking about Max's creepy skeleton guy.

Then I hear it again. Her Voice! She's calling me: HAANNNAAAHH!" Now I know for sure this is no raven. Fear takes over, and I shout into the darkness, "WHO ARE YOU? WHY ARE YOU CALLING ME?"


Hannah is 12, and she lives with her dad and cat on a houseboat in Cowichan Bay, BC, where she is dealing with the death of her mother and the usual school bullies. While running through the woods one day, she trips and finds a Coast Salish spindle whorl (used for spinning wool) in a small cave. She and her dad take the artefact to a museum in Victoria and return with a team of archaeologists to scour the area for more information. Hannah starts to hear drums, smell smoke and dream about a young girl she knows is from another time. When she returns to the cave, she is transported to the nineteenth century and the First Nations village on the site on her own modern town. Here, she meets the girl from her dreams, Yisella, and goes to live with Yisella's family. Yisella's life is in flux as her mother has become ill with smallpox and her sister refuses to help in the family's livelihood. It is Hannah who discovers a special talent for spinning and weaving and who helps Yisella escape when a ship arrives carrying Europeans intending to colonize the village. With the spindle whorl safe in the cave, Hannah wakes up in her own time, with a new feline companion who has joined her from the past.

     Initially Hannah is a very fun, sympathetic and lively character, and her hometown and funky houseboat are memorable and convincing. While Hannah quickly becomes pals with Max, a new kid in her own time, her relationship with Yisella never feels as real. Shaw needed to work harder to create the feeling that the two girls share a special bond. Once Hannah is transported to the past, the plot slows considerably, and Hannah becomes oddly passive, lacking the sense of wonder and excitement common to most literary time travellers. Hannah says, "I'll just have to wait it out and go with the flow," about her mysterious journey to the past, but the story could have been a lot stronger if she had something more active to accomplish in the past before returning to her own time. She does learn that many of her worries are insignificant, and her friend's grief helps her deal with her own loss. Some of the story is relayed through Hannah's journal entries, a device which seems unnecessary in a first person novel, and, in these sections, the voice doesn't ring as true and the self-reflection seems a little forced.

      Shaw does incorporate a lot of interesting historical detail which will be new to her audience, and she brings up some intriguing issues about contact between cultures. But she ignores others (Hannah has no real interaction with First Nations people in her own time) or deals with them too neatly (the white colonilizers are ridiculous caricatures). It's also hard to see what the girls have accomplished by saving the spindle whorl for a museum piece. Yisella is not pleased with the idea that her family's special possessions will be kept and studied by someone who never knew her, but Hannah convinces her this is the only way they will be safe. Shaw could have explored the idea of museums and ownership of objects from the past more thoughtfully, but this underdeveloped theme could certainly be the focus for interesting discussions.

Recommended with reservations.

Kris Rothstein is a children's book agent and reviewer in Vancouver, BC.

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

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