Jane, the Fox and Me by Franny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault

Jane the Fox and Me
Hélène tries to but it’s not possible to avoid the whispers and taunts of her classmates, taunts about her looks, her weight, her BO.  There was a time when she was friends with the girls who now treat her like she’s a bad smell.  Since Genviève, Anne-Julie, Sarah, and Chloé dropped her, decreed that no one should talk to her Hélène’s found herself entirely abandoned.
Jane Eyre has become her only friend and solace, Jane is an orphan who went to live with a dreadful old aunt who mistreated her, then was sent to a charity school.  Despite the trials of her childhood, Jane grew up to be clever and wise, and was employed as a governess to the daughter of a wealthy widower.
It’s hard sometimes to focus on Jane Eyre because Hélène can hear her persecutors laughing among themselves at the back of the bus.  Her heart beats too hard to concentrate on the pages.  Her ears work hard not to hear her former friends’ latest nastiness.  She thinks, instead, about the dress with the crinoline skirt her mother stayed up late to sew for her, after all the other chores had been done, a beautiful orange and pink dress with spaghetti straps that she no longer has the confidence to wear.
Adèle, the little girl Jane Eyre teaches, loves her and tells her constantly how smart she is.  Her father, Mr. Rochester, clearly agrees.  He invites Jane to join him every evening for quiet conversation.  The young woman is reassured to learn that she isn’t the monster she has sometimes thought herself to be.
Spring comes.  Hélène walks home instead of taking the bus.  She enjoys the solitary journey along quiet streets and through the park, and the caramels she decides she can eat after so much exercise.
Summer and an end to the daily barrage of snickers and cold shoulders and nasty comments on washroom stalls beckons.  Then disaster.  The teacher announces that Hélène’s class will be spending four days and four nights at an outdoor education centre.  Everyone’s going, including the girls who aren’t her friends anymore.  The others are excited.  Hélène feels physically sick.
It doesn’t help that she needs a new bathing suit and has to endure a trip downtown with her mother to buy one.  No matter what suit she tries on, they all make Hélène look like a big, fat sausage.
Jane Eyre realizes she has fallen in love with Mr. Rochester.  Determined to cure herself of her foolish dreams, Jane draws two portraits, one of herself and the other of Miss Ingram, a beautiful and wealthy young woman who has her mind set on marrying her employer.  By committing the two portraits to memory, Jane believes she will stamp out her own feelings for the man.
Hélène, too, develops a strategy.  She reads in the bus all the way up to the outdoor education school and, while the others choose tent mates, pretends to hunt through her bag for something.  Hélène finds herself in a tent with the other outcasts, Lucia Muniz who’s fluent only in Spanish, and Suzanne Lipsky, who spends all of her time brushing her hair.  Neither of them show any interest in being friends.
At the campfire, that night, the boys yell, “Boom!  Ba-da-boom!” when Hélène arrives.  She escapes back to tent just as soon as their backs are turned.
At breakfast the next morning, a meal straight out of Jane Eyre, Hélène eats because she’s hungry and it gives her something to do, and gets some unwanted attention from her nemeses.  They claim she’s so fat, she hasn’t felt the fork with which they poked her in the butt.  Hélène shrinks into herself as the whole class stares and smirks at her.  She can’t help but wonder if the nasty tale is true.
On the second last night, Hélène is sitting on the step outside her tent reading Jane Eyre, when a noise distracts her.  She looks up to see a fox.  They stare at each other for a time, and then Hélène holds out her hand to coax the fox closer.  He has come almost within touching distance when Suzanne Lipsky yells and scares the fox away.  The other girl tells her that, to come so close, the fox must be rabid.
Hélène is devastated by the fox’ departure, by her failure to break, even momentarily, the isolation that has surrounded her since her arrival at the outdoor education school.  Her bullies’ taunts and her own negative thoughts rush in to batter at her soul, especially this newest one, that only a fox who is rabid would come anywhere near her.
Mr. Rochester loves Jane Eyre, and asks her to marry him.  However, the wedding is not to be because, it turns out, Mr. Rochester already has a wife, a mad woman whom he keeps locked up in the attic of his house.  Jane leaves the man’s employ and travels far away, as soul-battered as Hélène.
Just then a girl walks into the outcasts’ tent.  Géraldine has been kicked out of her tent because she refuses to go along with the mob justice her tent mates plotted.  Géraldine swipes some of Hélène’s jujubes, tries her Spanish out on Lucia Muniz, and gives her hair elastics to Suzanne Lipsky.  Next thing Hélène knows, there aren’t four outcasts each in their own corner of the tent, there are four girls sitting cross-legged in the middle.
Géraldine wants to show Hélène where the strawberries are growing.  She laughs at the other girl’s riddles.  Before long, the two of them are laughing and talking like old friends.  Suddenly Hélène’s world isn’t cold and empty, it’s filled to the brim with her new friend’s words.
Sometime soon after, Hélène goes to the doctor for her annual check-up and learns she now weighs 88 pounds, less than the 396 Geneviève has given her but still more than at her last visit.  Pressed, the doctor refuses to agree that Hélène is fat, even a little bit.  He pronounces, instead, that she is simply growing.  For the first time, Hélène considers that she may not be the sausage her bullies have named her.
Jane Eyre discovers that Mr. Rochester’s mad wife burned down his house, killing herself and blinding him.  Despite his deceit, Jane still loves Mr. Rochester.  Hélène is surprised to find that Geneviève, the girl who has tormented her all these long months, is showing signs of wanting to be friends again.  Perhaps there is hope of a reconciliation.  In the meantime, Hélène enjoys her new friendship with Géraldine.
Written by Fanny Britt and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, Jane, the Fox and Me is the story of a girl who, after her friends turn on her, isolate her, and subject to her taunts about her physical appearance, finds comfort in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.  As Jane’s story unfolds, Hélène sees parallels between her life and that of the young English orphan, both in their loneliness and misery, and in the unexpected gift of happiness that comes to each of them when life seems at its bleakest.  Britt’s spare and lyrical prose marries perfectly with Arsenault’s lovely and evocative illustrations to create a book that will stay with readers from Grade 4 long after they have turned the last page.
FernFolio Editor

The Further Adventures of Jack Lime by James Leck

Further Adventures of Jack Lime
He’s sworn off detective work, and promised his Grandma he won’t take any more cases.  He’s sporting black eyes and a broken nose, souvenirs of his last investigation.  Too bad Jack Lime can’t say no to a girl because he’s about to be drawn into another tangle of lies and deceit and, once again, he’ll walk away a little sadder and wiser.
First it’s a girl called Betty whose boyfriend disappears every time he gets a text message or phone call from someone he won’t identify.  Jack figures she’s being two-timed by Lance Munroe, quarterback of the Iona Warriors, but it doesn’t take him long to realize Betty’s boyfriend is mixed up with Mike the Bookie and Bucky King, fellow students who’ve been suspended in the past for running a betting pool.
Jack is in the stands for the Warriors’ game against Eastern High, and can’t help but find it suspicious that the home team is down by twenty points at the end of the third quarter before Lance storms back to give the Warriors the win.  A couple of days later, he watches from a safe distance while Lance plays a game of dodgeball against a kid who’s half his size.  Strangely enough, after the bets are laid, Lance trips and falls, and gets nailed by the other kid’s ball.
Trouble with telling clients what’s what, is often they don’t want to hear the truth.  Betty’s no different.  She gets mad when Jack tells her Lance is fixing games for a couple of lowlifes, and he’s too soft-hearted to press his point.  The case ends up costing him a perfectly good bike.
Then there’s Madeleine Summers, whose painting goes missing from the art room the night before an art exhibit she’s sure to win.  Jack’s life is already complicated enough; Principal Snit has handed him an in-school suspension for taking another kid’s diary and demanding $125 for its return.  He’s not interested in Jack’s insistence that the diary was actually the book in which Mike the Bookie records bets and the money was to fix the bike he’d had a part in destroying.
Jack figures the painting’s probably been taken by whoever stands to profit from the crime.  In this case, that’s Sebastien Cain who’s now expected to win first prize at the art exhibit.  Jack tails Cain all over town before he realizes it’s a ploy devised to keep him busy.  By the time he gets to the location mentioned in a ransom note, Madeleine’s friend Julian has wrestled the painting from the arms of a masked kid, and Jack is left looking like a loser.
Except the more Jack thinks about it, the more things don’t add up.  A chance remark someone makes at the art exhibit causes the pieces to fall into place.  It isn’l long before the teenaged detective gets his confession.  Unfortunately, Jack’s too soft hearted to hammer home his advantage and let the perp get what’s coming to him.
His next client is a rather nasty piece of work named Tyler Butt.  His Captain Marvel #146 comic book was grabbed off a table when the lights went out during the school’s Comic-Con, and he expects Jack to do track it down and quickly.  Eyewitness accounts and blurred black-and-white photos agree the crook was dressed in black and made off through the woods behind the school.
On Tyler’s orders, Jack pays a visit to Pop’s, a comic book shop in town, to see if any Captain Marvel #146’s have turned up.  He talks to Miriam Singh, president of the Student Council, about who had what table at the Comic-Con event.  She hands him what she says is a card from a secret admirer.  It reads HELP!  Taped to the card is a key that Jack recognizes will open a train station locker.
He heads over to the train station.  His gut is telling him to get out of there but his ignores it.  He finds locker number 333 and opens it with the key.  Inside is the missing Captain Marvel #146.  It is snatched out of his hand by a furious Tyler Butt who, with Sebastian Cain, has recorded him opening the locker and removing the comic.  He doesn’t want to listen to Jack’s assertions that he is innocent and that he’s being framed.
The young private eye will need all of his wits, and a little help, to finally pin the crime on the real thieves.  But has he really solved these latest cases or is it just possible that there is a master criminal mind at work here whose goal it to bring down Jack Lime once and for all?
Written by James Leck and a sequel to The Adventures of Jack Lime, The Further Adventures of Jack Lime tells the story of a teenaged boy whose penchant for solving mysteries for desperate clients makes him a constant target for the lowlife elements at his high school.  Though those he helps never seem to appreciate his work, Jack Lime is both too hard nosed and stubborn and too soft-hearted to walk away from a case.  A sad and funny book for worldweary readers from Grade 4.
FernFolio Editor

How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied by Jess Keating

How to Outrun a Crocodile
Twelve-year-old Ana Wright’s best friend, her only friend, has moved halfway around the world to New Zealand, leaving her to cope all on her own with her arch nemesis, Ashley, and her two minions, Rayna and Brooke.  The Sneerers are everything Ana isn’t, confident, sophisticated and popular, yet they take particular delight in targeting her.  And, despite Ana’s best efforts to go unnoticed, especially at school, Ashley finds plenty of opportunities for torment.
It doesn’t help that Ana’s parents are zoologists who work at the local zoo, and who are given to dressing in safari outfits complete with hats.  Worse still, they named her after a snake.  Yes, Ana is short for Anaconda.  That’s why the Sneerers have called her Scales.  Worse yet, she has a twin brother named Daz who seems to bounce effortlessly from escapade to escapade, and whose best friend, Kevin, has stuck loyally by him and not suddenly moved abroad.
Fortunately, the end of the school year is in sight.  Ana has just got to somehow avoid the Sneerers for a couple more weeks, complete her art project for Ms. Fenton, and scrape through the final math test.  Then she’ll be able to crawl into a hole for the summer, and lick her wounds.
It comes as an unpleasant shock when a giant Caribbean-blue RV pulls up outside her house, and her grandfather leaps out.  Shep Foster is a famous naturalist, reality star and TV personality who is as well-known for his wildlife adventures as he is for his beautiful young girlfriends.  He and Sugar are soon seated at the dining room table with Ana’s family.  Ana’s heart sinks as Shep unveils his plans for a documentary about his life, one that will feature his daughter and her family.
For Ana, who has spent her whole life keeping her relationship with Shep a secret, this spells disaster.  Bad enough that she is named after a snake, that she once inadvertently took a pocketful of crickets to school, and that, despite her best efforts, her clothes are regularly covered with suspicious spots, picked up while mucking out animal cages at the zoo.  If the Sneerers learn that Shep Foster is her grandfather, they’ll never let it go, and any chance of Zack ever talking to her will evaporate.
But there’s more bad news.  Her grandfather has arranged to fund her mother’s carnivore project.  With it comes a residence on the zoo grounds.  Yes, boys and girls, Ana is going to living in the zoo.  Her hopes of slipping quietly into anonymity are gone.  Within days, her family are packing up their things to move in a small house tucked behind the lion exhibit, and close enough to the hippos that their shower mould smell hangs in the air.
Escaping to the Crocodile Pavilion after a morning of housecleaning, Ana finds a small child trying to hoist herself up to get a better look at Louie.  She spends a pleasant quart of an hour telling Beatrix about crocodiles.  After the child’s mother shows up to thank her and lead the little girl away, Ana discovers her own mother has been listening.  She tells Ana that she’s a natural presenter, and urges her to give some educational presentations to zoo visitors.  Though Ana has enjoyed talking to Beatrix, the thought of doing so in front of a crowd makes her want to puke.
Things at school look up a bit when Ana makes a new friend.  Small, quiet, mousy-looking Bella always has her nose in a book or is scribbling away at something but behind this facade Ana discovers someone who is as sure of herself as she is kind.  Bella teaches Ana everything she knows about hiding in plain sight.  Soon they are eating lunch together in the cafeteria, and sharing ideas for their art projects.  And Kevin, who, other than his unfortunate choice of best friend, is clearly an intelligent and reasonable individual, volunteers to review the math program with her so she’ll stand a chance at passing the final test.
Then disaster strikes.  Ana decides to pay a visit to Shep at his hotel, and finds him in the midst of a media scrum.  Someone takes a photo of her and Sugar standing at the desk in the hotel lobby, a picture that features Ana’s backside covered in some kind of animal byproduct.  When she gets to school, the next morning, everyone is staring or snickering.  Ana discovers that Ashley and the Sneerers have put up hundreds of posters of her backside with the caption LOOKS LIKE SCALES HAD AN ACCIDENT.  Kevin rips them all down, and Bella is sympathetic but the damage is done.
Ana figures that things can’t possibly get worse but, of course, they do.  Her mother has spoken to the director of education at the zoo, and arranged for her to give a talk about reptiles in just a couple days’ time.  Ana wants to wants to howl but agrees to to it.
At school, the Sneerers continue their sly torment while others titter.  Her parents make a surprise visit to her class to talk about their work and to encourage student interest in biology and zoology.  They also let it drop that their daughter will be giving an educational presentation at the zoo.   To Ana’s horror, Ashley very sweetly offers to record her talk and post it on YouTube.
But first there is the taping of that segment for Shep Foster’s documentary.  Make up applied and hair coiffed, Ana sits with her family in her living room listening to the interviewer’s questions and fears that she’s going to throw up.  When a question comes her way, Ana hears herself babble Zack’s name before she manages to put herself together and answer the interviewer.  Afterward, Daz laughs and Bella comforts her, but Ana knows there will be no ducking the mortifying consequences of her gaff.
She makes it all the way up to the start of her zoo talk when she falls apart.  Weeping, she tells her parents that she can’t do it, especially with her grandfather’s camera crew filming.  Ana learns a couple of things from them, and then from Shep, too, before deciding she will give that presentation.
It is hard to focus on her notes with Zack watching, and Ashley and her minions smirking from the audience but Daz and Kevin and Bella are rooting for her.  So, too, are her parents and her grandfather.  To her surprise, Ana finds that she’s a whole lot stronger than she’d realized and that, just as her mother and Shep have insisted, she does possess a talent for talking to crowds.  She gets the chance for a little balancing of the scales with Ashley, and realizes, at last, that despite Liv’s departure, she has a wonderful family and good friends, and the prospect of a lovely summer with them.
Written by Jess Keating, How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied is the story of a girl’s misadventures after her best friend moves away, and she finds herself caught up in the publicity surrounding her famous grandfather’s visit when all she wants to do is hide.  A tragicomical chronicle full of the angst and uncertainties of adolescence, this book will appeal to girls from Grade 5.
FernFolio Editor

The Secret Agenda of Sigrid Sugden by Jill MacLean

Hidden Agenda of Sigrid Sugden
It’s early June.  Twelve-year-old Sigrid Sugden has been tormenting kids, and worse, with her fellow Shrikes, Tate Cody and Mel Corkum, for some two years.  Sigrid finds herself wishing that Tate would just leave Prinny Murphy alone.  Prinny, who has been paying them to keep photos of her drunken mother from being posted online, has abruptly announced that she’s through with giving them money.
Tate has made it clear to both Sigrid and Mel that Prinny cannot get away with it.  She decides that they will accost the other girl one foggy Friday afternoon on the wharf in Fiddlers Cover.  To escape them, Prinny jumps into her father’s dory and rows away from shore.  Sigrid, who’s learned a thing or two about the waters from her stepdad, realizes the tide has turned and knows that, when the tide is going out, the current can pull you out of the cove and onto the reef.
Sigrid runs home, finds the phone number for Thomas Murphy, and calls him.  “Prinny’s in a dory rowing out to sea and the tide’s turned.  Go rescue her – hurry!”  Making up an excuse to Tate and Mel for her sudden departure, she cannot sleep that night, terrified that Prinny has drowned.
There is a knock on the door the next morning.  It’s Prinny Murphy.  She rather stiffly thanks Sigrid for warning her father, and adds that he had to go out in his speedboat and tow her back to shore.  Sigrid spends the rest of the weekend expecting Mr. Murphy to show up looking for her mother and stepfather.
She is called to the office on Monday morning, along with Prinny, Tate and Mel.  There she and the other Shrikes are informed that Mr. Murphy has laid a complaint that they terrorized his daughter, and caused her to nearly be swept out to sea.  While Tate and Mel argue vociferously that they had nothing to do with Prinny’s actions, Sigrid doesn’t say a word.
Her mother and Seal, her stepfather, both want to know why they’ve been called in to meet with the school principal early that evening.  At that meeting, they learn that, for the past two years, Sigrid and her friends Tate and Mel have been bullying other kids.  Because he knows she made the phone call to Prinny’s father, Mr. MacInney hasn’t laid charges but he warns her, “One more whiff of trouble…. and I’ll call the cops.”  However it’s what Prinny’s father says that really gets Sigrid to thinking, “Decide if you’re gonna be part of the problem or part of the solution.”
Her mother, Lissie, declares that it’s all the fault of her ex-husband, Randy, who went west to Fort McMurry to find work and never returned.  Then Lissie jumps into her Camaro and roars off back to her best friend Ady and their ever-ending quest for stuff to sell online through ebay.  It is Seal, Lissie’s boyfriend and the only adult who ever bothers to show up on a regular basis, who takes Sigrid home, sits her down and tells that it’s time she find some new friends.
Thing is, Sigrid’s ready to turn over a new leaf, long past ready, in fact.  She fell in with Tate and Mel two years earlier, after her best and only friend Hanna moved west to Calgary with her family, and she found herself pretty much on her own.  By then, her mother had started to spend most of her days and evenings over at Ady’s.  Though Seal made a point of being home when he could, he was working long hours at the liquor store.  Her older brother Lorne had discovered girls.  More often than not, Sigrid went home to an empty house and opened a can of something in hopes that someone would eventually come home to help her eat it.
When Tate showed up with Mel in tow, Sigrid was happy to have her as a friend.  When Tate and Mel expected her to help them lean on other kids for their lunch money, threatening to post photos online of them shoplifting at the local dollar store, or simply picking their nose, Sigrid was eager to do so.  Threatening kids, seeing them shake and cry, taking her cut of their lunch money, helped to feed the mad she had on for how her best friend, her father and her mother had abandoned her.  By the time her anger lifted, six months later, is was too late to extricate herself from Tate’s grasp.
Tate sees her phone call to Prinny’s father as an act of betrayal, one she is prepared to overlook if Sigrid will tell Mr. MacInney, the school principal, that she is the Shrikes’ ringleader.  When she refuses to do so, and tells the other girls that Prinny might have been killed, Tate is quick to retaliate.  She begins by informing Sigrid that Seal is seeing another woman, someone named Davina Murphy, who lives in Ratchet.  Recalling all the times, recently, that her stepdad’s been out, Sigrid knows that the story must be true.  She’s going to lose the closest thing to a parent she has.
Following her break with the Shrikes, Sigrid spends the last few weeks of school alone, mostly with her back to the wall and close to a teacher to avoid trouble.  No one comes near her.  Only Travis Keating speaks to her, but it is to remind her that while she calls Prinny’s father, Sigrid also helped to scare her into the dory.  Knowing that it is only a matter of time before Tate and Mel try to follow her home after school, Sigrid asks the school bus driver to wait until she’s safely inside the house, and then rushes around locking doors and windows.
She is cornered and attacked by Tate and Mel behind her house one day and is rescued by Hud Quinn, of all people.  Hud Quinn, who made Travis Keating’s life miserable when he first came to their part of the shore.  Hud Quinn, who’s the biggest bully along their part of the shore.  For the first time ever, Sigrid takes a good look at Hud, catches a glimpse of a smile that transforms his face, and begins to wonder just exactly where all his bruises come from.
Every time he’s home, her stepfather asks Sigrid how things are going and if she’s making new friends.  She’s not exactly Miss Popularity, she informs him.  Seal suggests that she start small.  Sigrid tries smiling at her classmates, but no one smiles back.  She tries giving two of them greeting cards, a first overture to friendship.  Both of them make it clear they want nothing to do with her.
When she catches sight of Violet Dunston shoplifting at Walmart, Sigrid recalls how she and the other Shrikes leaned on Violet and demanded twenty dollars or they’d post photos of her stealing a pair of pink socks.  She decides that the next step in her journey back to good is to pay that money back.  She withdraws fifty dollars from her back account and bikes out to Prinny Murphy’s house where she tries to give the money to Prinny but the girl won’t take it.  Instead, she tells Sigrid to donate the money to the local vet’s stray cat fund.  Shaken because she remembers only too well climbing into Prinny’s house and throwing her two cats out into a gathering storm, Sigrid takes her leave.
Alone at home, while her mother is off on another buying trip, and Lorne and Seal either at work or seeing their girlfriends, Sigrid finds herself abruptly tired of living in a mess.  First she tackles the kitchen, cleaning out cupboards, scrubbing shelves and counters and floors, and pitching old curtains and threadbare tea towels, before turning to the bathroom and living room.  She demands that Lorne, her older brother, drive her to Walmart so she can buy new curtains, towels and a soap dish, then informs both him and Seal that she expects them both home for supper on Mondays and Wednesdays.  Distressed by the tears that well up in her eyes, they both hurry to agree.  The clean house and the home-cooked meals, she realizes, are her attempt at holding onto both men, at keeping them from abandoning her as her parents have.
Though the kids at school continue to ignore her efforts to be friendly, Sigrid soldiers on.  She finds Avery Quinn, gives him twenty dollars, and apologizes for her part in threatening to post photos online of him picking his nose.  She gives another twenty-dollar bill to Violet Dunston, and apologizes to her, too.  When she comes across her former Shrikes taking lunch money from a younger child, she confronts them and demands they give it back.  Hud rescues her, once again, but not before Tate lands a punch to her stomach.
Tate and Mel show up at her house the next day, and let themselves in with the key they’ve stolen from her desk.  While Mel keeps her pinned to the kitchen floor, Tate ransacks the house, sweeping food from shelves, smearing jam over walls, pouring mustard and dried coffee everywhere.  Then she taunts Sigrid with photos of Seal with Davina Murphy. By the time they leave, the house is a mess and Sigrid is furious with herself for promising Tate she’ll stay out of their way.  It takes her hours to clean up the mess but it’s done by the time Seal gets home.  Though she doesn’t say a word, Sigrid can’t help but think that her stepfather knows something happened.  She asks him to get the locks changed on the house.
She bikes out to Gulley Cove the next day, and watches as Doyle Quinn, Hud’s father, casually reaches out and wallops him across the side of the head.  Determined to avenge the only friend she presently has any claim to, Sigrid sneaks back to Gulley Cove that night and scatters nails behind the tires of his truck.  It’s only when she’s safely back in bed that she realizes the effect a flat tire will have on Hud’s father.  When he doesn’t show up at school the next day, Sigrid is consumed with regret.
She does get to the vet’s clinic and make that fifty-dollar donation to the stray cat fund.  Sigrid also bikes back out to Gulley Cove hoping to catch sight of Hud, just so she’ll know his father hasn’t killed him.  When he finally returns to school, several days later, Hud is wearing a long-sleeved shirt and sunglasses.  She talks to him, asks him what happened, but, when Hud lies and says he walked into a door, she tells him, “Your dad did it.”  Though the boy is angry, Sigrid adds that she’s seen his father hit him.
Then school is over and the summer stretches endlessly before Sigrid.  Without friends or much in the way of family, she wonders how she’ll fill the hours.   She finds herself biking to Long Bight, where Mel lives, and sneaking around back to peek in her bedroom window.  Sigrid is taken aback to watch Mel stare wistfully into her mirror, clearly unhappy with her reflection.  She is surprised to feel a stirring of sympathy for the other girl, and remember for the first time in a long while, how Mel’s mother died and her father seems to have lost all interest in living.
Sigrid spends some of the money her absent father sends her every month on makeup and a gift certificate for Mel.  When the other girl ruins the lipsticks and eye shadows and throws the remains of gift back at her, she realizes that acts of kindness are just as complicated and apt to go awry as acts of vengeance.
Sigrid plucks up her courage and goes to see Abe Murphy, an old farmer who lives in Gulley Cove, and whom Travis Keating and Prinny Murphy have befriended.  She introduces herself, and tells him that she’s a bully who’s trying to change.  She asks him if she can visit his barn where, she knows, a feral white cat called Ghost lives.  She wants to try to tame the cat.  Abe agrees to her visits, in exchange for her help shovelling the cow manure.  Prinny Murphy arrives just as Sigrid is leaving.  She is hostile toward and suspicious of the former Shrike, and makes it clear that she isn’t ready to trust Sigrid.
No one comes else home that night to keep Sigrid company.  She awakens at four in the morning to realize she’s all alone.  She gets up and makes and eats instant oatmeal while she watches the sun come up.  She’s still sitting at the kitchen table when Seal’s truck pulls into the driveway an hour later.
Seal tells her that evening about Davina Murphy; how he wants to marry her and have some kids of his own.  He says he wants Sigrid to meet Davina, and that he plans to tell Lissie about things just as soon as he can.  It’s clear from the way Seal talks that he worries what effect his departure will have on Sigrid.  Though he’d miss her ‘something fierce,’ Seal suggests she consider going out to Fort McMurray to live with his father and his new family.  She wants to hug Seal, to tell him she loves him, but cannot it.
Lissie is furious when she learns that Seal has been seeing another woman but, to Sigrid, that anger seems focussed more on how his departure will inconvenience her than on losing him.  It isn’t long before she has taken off again to Aby’s, leaving Sigrid with her now former boyfriend.  As soon as she’s on her own, Sigrid finds her father’s phone number in Fort McMurray, a number she’s never dialled before, despite her monthly letter to him.  She learns he has just married Barb, the mother of his two young boys.  She wishes her father well, and hangs up without asking if she can come out to live with him.
Just before dusk, that evening, Sigrid pays a clandestine visit to Tate Cody’s, two houses away from her own.  She watches through the window as Mr. and Mrs. Cody, both members of the Brotherhood, pray over their wayward daughter.  She sees Tate’s father push her down onto her knees, sees how his fingers dig into the girl’s shoulders and her white expressionless face, and reflects on terrifying coldness of the Codys’ God.  To punish Tate’s father, and because it seems to be the only thing she can do, Sigrid throws a rock at the window, shattering the glass, before racing home.
She has a run-in with Doyle Quinn the following day in the hardware store.  Hurrying to catch up with Seal, she ploughs into Hud’s father and sends both of them sprawling.  The man is furious, and accuses Sigrid of knocking him down on purpose.  Seal’s arrival prevents things from escalating, but, as she watches him leave, Sigrid fears Doyle Quinn will take his anger out on his son’s back.
When she spots him later laying into Travis Keating, she tells him to stop being a bully, that he’s worth more than that.  While Travis makes his escape, the two argue about the consequences of “letting your mean off the leash.”  Though she tells him that friends look out for each other and that, as far as she’s concerned, they’re friends, Hud tells her to get lost.  Sigrid refuses to give up, though.  The following day, she bikes out to Gulley Cove.  When she finds him, beaten and bruised, Sigrid bursts into tears.  Startled, Hud awkwardly puts his arm around her and tells her, “Don’t cry – I’m not worth crying for.”  He confides that the reason the feral white cat in Abe Murphy’s barn is so nervous is that he once tried to drown him.
Sigrid finds Travis Keating at Abe’s, and asks him if he’s ever seen Doyle Quinn hit his son.  He admits that he has. She bikes around to talk to other kids, including Prinny, her friend Laice, and Travis’ pal Hector.  Though they aren’t certain they can trust her, each of them agrees to keep an eye open and let her know if they see anything.
When she is next in Ratchet, Sigrid finds herself outside Davina Murphy’s house when Seal’s girlfriend arrives home and, recognizing her from Seal’s photos, invites her in for lunch.   To her surprise, Sigrid takes to Davina, and finds herself telling her all about her efforts to mend her ways.  Davina hugs her when she goes, a hug that leaves Sigrid feeling happier and more hopeful than she has in a long time.
She heads out to Abe Murphy’s barn to visit with Ghost.  She is still there when Tate and Mel show up, intent upon teaching her a lesson.  While Mel restrains her, Tate flings open the barn doors, hits the pig across the backside with a stick to set it running, releases the cow, and knocks over the chicken pen.  Dragging Sigrid out to Abe’s garden, the other girls trample his vegetables.
Abe arrives home to find Sigrid and Hud trying to coax his cow away from the cliff and back into the field.  He takes one look at the mess and decides the boy’s responsible.  He tells Hud and Sigrid that neither of them are welcome on his property and orders them to leave.  However Sigrid can’t leave until she finds Ghost, who was scared off by the girls’ attack.  She searches the area around Abe’s farm until she finds the cat catch in an old snare.  Carefully, she frees Ghost and rushes to Prinny Murphy’s house, near by, where she finds Prinny’s father and asks him to drive her to the vet.
Abe shows up on the doorstep first thing next morning.  To Sigrid’s surprise, the first words out of his mouth are an apology.  It seems Hud and Travis went to Tate’s house where they found and stole her running shoes, still covered in mud from Abe’s garden.  The old farmer tells Sigrid she’s welcome back to his barn any time she likes.  Later she’ll learn that he’s offered Hud a job working around his place, and the real prospect of a safe place to go in times of trouble.
It seems that Sigrid, too, will have a new place to call home, if she wants it.  Seal and Davina have decided to build a bedroom for her off the back of Davina’s house.  While she will probably have to continue to live part of the time with her mother, both of them know that it’s only a matter of time before Lissie takes off again.  Full once again with happiness and hope, Sigrid says the words she’s longed to say to Seal.  “You’re my real dad.”
Written by Jill MacLean, author of The Nine Lives of Travis Keating and The Present Tense of Prinny Murphy, The Hidden Agenda of Sigrid Sugden is the story of a young bully who, after almost causing a possible tragedy, decides to turn her life around.  She stops hanging with the other bullies, tries to apologize to and repay those she helped to terrorize and take money from, and works hard to make some new friends.  It isn’t easy.  She’s got a nasty reputation, and no one is going to take a chance on her, but she doesn’t give up.
Good thing, because she’s also struggling to find a real home for herself.  Her real father is long gone, her mother seems more interested in selling stuff online than parenting, and her stepfather has fallen in love with another woman.  She finds herself standing up for the most unlikely of underdogs, another bully like herself, and, in telling him, time and again, that he’s worth fighting for, discovers that she is, too.  Sigrid Sudgen’s story will capture your imagination and your heart.  A new Canadian classic for readers from Grade 5.
FernFolio editor

Addy’s Race by Debby Waldman

Addys Race
Eleven-year-old Addy Markley is tired of being defined by her hearing aids, tired of people asking her if she can speak sign language, tired of them being surprised that she can speak.  She is particularly tired of listening to her mother’s story of how she discovered Addy was hard of hearing when she was just three, and of how difficult and traumatic it was for her as a mother.
Addy hears perfectly well with her hearing aids, other than the odd situation when too many people are talking at once.  And she likes being able to turn off her hearing aids and stop listening when she’s had enough.  She tends to do that around Stephanie and Emma, who have been best friends since kindergarten and nasty to Addy for just about as long.  Stem, as Addy calls them, act friendly, especially in front of teachers and parents, but they aren’t nice.
Fortunately, Addy has Lucy who is just about the best friend a person could ask for.  Lucy’s always on her side, no matter what. So, when Miss Fields starts a cross-country team and Joanne, Lucy’s mother and a former runner, insists she join, Addy signs up to keep her company.
Both girls are chagrined to discover that Stem, who have spent the summer attending a running camp at the University of Alberta and are now running with the Tornadoes, the best running club in the city, have also joined the cross-country team.  It becomes obvious at the first practice that Lucy is not a runner.  After a couple of hundred metres, she stops running and announces that she can’t go any further.  As her best friend, Addy sticks with Lucy, and ignores Stem’s whispered taunts when the two of them fail to finish the run.  However a couple of days before the first race, Lucy suffers a sprained ankle following a run-in with a dog.  Addy ends up racing without her.
At the starting gun, she starts running from the middle of the pack.  Preoccupied by thoughts of getting run over in the mad dash to begin and then by wishes that she’d thought to find out how long it might take her to complete it, Addy doesn’t pay much attention to the race.  Afterward, she’ll recall that she had to stop and walk for a while and that she quickly lost sight of the other runners, but mostly she just runs as fast as she can.  After she crosses the finish line, Addy is shocked to discover that she’s placed sixteenth, ahead both Stephanie and Emma.
Stem stay true to their nasty reputation and whisper to their friends that Addy has cheated, which she adamantly denies, but she figures her time is a fluke.  Back at school, Stem try to goad her into a race, but Addy won’t be drawn in.  During the practices that follow, she consistently finishes last, putting her friendship with her running partner Lucy before improving her times.  However occasionally Addy feels the urge to lengthen her stride and pick up the pace.
At the next race, Addy and Lucy cross the finish line last, much to Stephanie and Emma’s satisfaction.  Now they whisper that Addy’s both a cheat and a loser.  When her mother joins them after the race, Lucy informs her that she’s quitting the running team, in part because she wants Addy to be able to run.  Left to run without her best friend, will Addy demonstrate that her first race was a fluke, or prove that she has the ability and the stamina to win?
Written by Debby Waldman, Addy’s Race is the story of a girl who starts running to keep her friend company and finds in it the means to finally become more than the kid with the hearing aids.  Addy’s struggle for acceptance as she tries to ignore the questions and curiosity and sometimes downright ignorance of others is honest and inspiring.  A lovely book for readers from Grade 4!
FernFolio Editor

Willow Finds a Way by Lana Button and Tania Howells

Willow Finds a Way
Willow is thrilled to learn that she and her whole class are going to be invited to Kristabelle’s fantastic birthday party.  Their names all appear on Kristabelle’s birthday list.
At snack time, Kristabelle waves her list in the air and says, “If you want to stay on my birthday list, come and sit at my table!”  Though she is perfectly happy where she is, Willow move to Kristabelle’s table.  So do all the kids in her class.
At playtime, Kristabelle waves her list in the air and says, “If you want to stay on my birthday list, come and play with me on the climber!”  Though she is perfectly happy in the sandbox, Willow goes over to the climber.  So do all the kids in her class.
At home time, Kristabelle waves her list in the air and tells Mateo, whose turn it is to be line leader, that if he wants to stay on her birthday list, he needs to let her go first.  Mateo refuses and Kristabelle crosses his name off her birthday list.  Willow wants to tell her that she’s not being nice but can’t find the words.
Kristabelle tells everyone to wear her favourite colour pink the next day if they want to come birthday.  Willow spends the following morning looking for something pink to wear.  Everyone comes to school dressed in Kristabelle’s favourite colour.  Everyone but Julian who says, “I don’t like pink.”  The whole class watches as Kristabelle crosses Julian’s name off her birthday list.
Willow feels bad and wants to tell Kristabelle, “That’s mean!” but the words won’t come out.  Instead she walks over to the birthday list and draws a line through her own name.  The other boys and girls gasp but then, one by one, they do the same.  With a few strokes of a marker, Kristabelle isn’t boss of anyone anymore.
Kristabelle sits all by herself at snack time.  She plays by herself at playtime, too.  At home time, she stands at the very end of the line.  Willow, who has watched her and seen how sad she looks, goes over and stands next to her.  Kristabelle whispers to Willow, “I’m sorry.”  Then she goes over to the teacher and speaks quietly to her.  Mrs. Post tells the class that Kristabelle would like to make an announcement.  She says to her classmates, “My birthday party will be fantastic.  If all my friends will come…please?”  The whole class attends Kristabelle’s birthday and they all have a fantastic time.
Written by Lana Button and illustrated by Tania Howells, and a sequel to Willow’s Whispers, Willow Finds a Way is the story of a little girl who starts telling everybody in her class where to sit, and what to play and wear if they want to get invited to her birthday party until sweet and shy Willow quietly stands up to her.  A lovely story, beautifully illustrated, about a common problem among children of all ages that is bound to strike a chord with young readers from age 4.
FernFolio Editor

Nobody’s Dog by Ria Voros

Nobodys Dog
The summer holidays have begun and thirteen-year-old Jakob “Nobody” Nebedy has too much time on his hands.  In the six months since his parents’ death in a car accident, he has coped by spending all of his spare time hanging out with Grant, his best and only friend.  With Grant, Jakob has been able to avoid thinking about his mom and dad or the fact that, though he was in the car the night it went off the road and flipped, he cannot remember what happened.  However Grant has moved away to London, England, and splinters of memory about the accident have begun to intrude.
Jakob still lives in the house he shared with his parents.  After their death, Aunt Laura, an emergency room nurse who works long shifts at the hospital, moved in and packed up everything that belonged to them.  Jakob and Laura may live in the same house but their relationship is strained.  Neither of them are ready to talk about the accident or their differences.
As the days pass, Aunt Laura starts pestering Jakob about getting involved in some summer activities.  She suggests the usual list of sports, camps and art classes.  The teen ignores them all.  Instead, he spends most of the day in his room surfing the internet and exchanging emails with Grant.  The lonelier he gets, the more Jakob longs for a dog.
Jakob has wanted a dog since he was five.  That want has grown since he hit adolescence, somehow found himself friendless, and became the target of taunts like, “Nobody to play with?  Nobody cares.”  He has regularly visited sites that offer rescue dogs for adoption, but has now started keeping lists of possible pets.  Though he has asked Aunt Laura several times about getting a dog, she has proved no more receptive than his parents were.  A few days into the summer holiday, Jakob finds and answers a notice advertising for a dog walker but the man on the other end of the phone explains he is looking for someone a little older.
Doing little all day other than surfing the web in search of dogs, Jakob finds it increasingly hard to sleep at night.  He is plagued by dreams of his parents that end inescapably with the car accident.  Not knowing what happened that night weighs ever more heavily upon him.
One night Jakob wakes up and, looking out his window, spots a dog trotting along the sidewalk.  Something about the dog sparks an almost memory, and he thinks, for a second, that he’s about to recall everything he’s forgotten about the night his parents died.  He calls out softly to the dog, who turns and wags his tail.  Within minutes, the teen has thrown on some clothes and snuck out the front door.
That first night, Jakob follows the dog to the Quay.  They walk to the end of the pier and watch as a seal pops its head out of the water before retracing their steps to the teen’s house.  By the time they get back to the teen’s house and the dog trots off to wherever he calls home, Jakob is hoping that the dog will return the following evening to take him on another night-time adventure.  With the dog, he has felt almost happy.  Further, the teen is sure that the key to what happened on the night of his parents’ death lies with the dog.
Written by Ria Voros, Nobody’s Dog recounts the secret friendship between a grieving teenaged boy and a stray dog, a friendship that includes nighttime adventures, a close call with the police, a run-in with a skunk, and a chance meeting this a second teen who just might become a friend.  The story also explores lies and truth, guilt, love and loss, and second chances.  A spare and searing and altogether absorbing book for readers from Grade 5.
FernFolio Editor

Picturing Alyssa by Alison Lohans

Picturing Alyssa
It started so promisingly with the anticipated birth of her baby sister, but Alyssa Dixon’s Grade 6 year has been anything but happy.  When little Charlotte is born dead, her mother lapses into a depression that has lasted for months.  While the laundry piles up, the floors become cluttered with piles of old newspapers and the fridge empties out, Jennifer Dixon sits for hours on end in the rocking chair in the room she prepared for the baby and stares at nothing.
Torn between grief and growing exasperation, Alyssa’s father teaches his classes at the local community college, then comes home to throw something together for supper.  He doesn’t seem to notice that the kids’ hair has grown long or that both Alyssa and her older brother Ethan have outgrown their clothes.
Ethan spends almost every moment playing video games in his basement bedroom.  It’s only when Alyssa presses him that he admits he too is struggling with feelings of grief and abandonment.
Only her best friend Rachel knows that Alyssa is also contending with Brooklynne Bayne, who’s ratcheted up her campaign of whispers and taunts to physical harassment and petty theft.  Because she’s the daughter of the town mayor and a local television news anchor, Alyssa knows that the school will be reluctant to act to stop Brooklynne’s bullying.
Instead, Alyssa tries to live according the tenets of her Quaker heritage.  She attends anti-war rallies, and strives to absorb the contemplative atmosphere and the teachings of old Warren Stanley, one of the elders of her Quaker community.
Her pacifist beliefs land Alyssa in trouble with her teacher, Mrs. Fraser, who is staunchly patriotic and who assigns the class a social studies project about things their families have done to contribute to today’s way of life.  The teacher has announced that she will award bonus points to anyone who can show that their family had helped to protect America’s freedom.
When she gets down the shoeboxes of family photos and looks at faded images of prairie fields and farmers, Alyssa considers lying and telling Mrs. Fraser that her ancestors were conductors on the Underground Railroad.
She notices a photograph of a man and woman and their six children standing on a farmhouse porch.  On the back is written Dallas County, Iowa, 1931, George and Martha Clayton, and their children Deborah, Wilfred, Herbert, Frances, Eva and Charles.  Something about Deborah, a girl of about her own age, has Alyssa picking up a magnifying glass for a closer look.  As she stares into the girl’s face, a face that is oddly familiar, Alyssa becomes faint, and falls backward and into June 1931.
She is found by Herbert, who rescues her from a vicious rooster, and asks her where she’s come from.  Alyssa is shocked to discover she’s in Iowa in 1931; he’s shocked to learn that she’s from North Dakota and has no idea how she’s got there.
Alyssa meets Herbert’s farmer father, his mother who is heavily pregnant and ill, Wilfred, Frances, Eva and Charles, and Deborah, whose grey eyes and soft smile have somehow drawn her there.  Then, just as rapidly as she arrived, Alyssa finds herself back in the living room of her parents’ house.  She might have brushed her experience off as a dream but her arms and face bear the rooster’s claw marks.
Her second visit to Iowa comes during a sleepover at Rachel’s house.  Determined to tell her best friend about her strange experience, Alyssa pulls out the photo while she waits for Rachel to return from the kitchen with mugs of hot chocolate.
She peers at the photo through the magnifying glass, and is swept back to the Clayton farm.
This time Alyssa arrives in the middle of a thunderstorm and is hustled into the farmhouse by George, the children’s father, before being bundled into Deborah’s nightgown and tucked into bed with the three girls.  The following morning, Alyssa does her best to help Deborah with breakfast for her mother and the younger children, and burns herself while making toast over the wood stove.  She also has a second encounter with the bad-tempered rooster that results in more angry-looking scratches.
Once breakfast is served and the chores are done, Alyssa gets a chance to talk to Deborah.  She tells her she’s from North Dakota and explains she’s from the future.  The other girl takes her at her word, and questions her eagerly about how she has travelled to Iowa and how she will get home.  Alyssa is troubled when she realizes she has no idea how to return to her own time.  She is also troubled when she looks at Martha’s pregnant belly and realizes that there was no baby in that photograph from the shoebox.
Her sudden reappearance at Rachel’s house narrowly averts a call to the police to report a missing person.  Both Lori, Rachel’s mom, and her parents have been frantic with worry.  Somehow, the sight of her dressed in Deborah’s second best dress, covered in scratches from the rooster and sporting a burn from the Clayton’s stove, convinces the adults that she’s been kidnapped from Rachel’s house.  Her explanation that she’s been in 1931 Iowa visiting relatives strikes them as delusional.
Only Ethan seems prepared to give her story any credence.  Looking at the photo in which Deborah is now wearing a different dress, Ethan asks his sister if she thinks he might be able to go back.  Certainly, he too gets the sensation, when he looks at the photo, that Deborah is looking straight at him.  Though something odd happens when he studies it with the magnifying glass, Ethan isn’t swept back into the past.  Instead, he appears to forget all about his attempt to travel there.
As a result of what they see as her refusal to tell them the truth about what happened at Rachel’s, her parents ground Alyssa however her mother does let something rather startling slip.  She tells Alyssa that her great-grandmother was a Clayton, and that her parents’ names were George and Martha.  For the first time since the baby’s death, Jennifer Dixon seems momentarily interested in something other than her loss.
Following the disastrous sleepover, Rachel doesn’t attend Sunday’s Quaker meeting, and Alyssa’s telephone calls to her go unanswered.  She is shocked and upset when, as part of her research for her social studies project, Alyssa googles her own name and comes across a vicious website Brooklynne has put up about her.  Equally upset, Ethan tries his best to comfort her, promising that their father will contact the school and the mayor’s office, but Alyssa pleads with her parents to let her handle it herself.  She pays a third visit to Deborah’s family in Iowa, during which she learns a lot about responsibility and service and especially about family.  With the words of Deborah’s song in her heart, Alyssa finds the courage both to confront Brooklynne and to make a presentation to her class that celebrates the importance of kindness, hard work, and loving families.
Written by Alison Lohans, Picturing Alyssa is the story of a vulnerable young girl whose trips into the past to meet her great-grandmother’s family on an Iowa farm give her the strength and courage and self-knowledge to face the sadness and fears of her own life.  Interesting glimpses of life in the 1930s on an Iowa farm, and Quaker beliefs and practices, combined with the loss of a newborn bab,y and with the issue of bullying make this a good book for readers from Grade 4.
FernFolio Editor

Howl by Karen Hood-Caddy

Howl
Twelve-year-old Robin Green has learned the hard way that it doesn’t pay to care too much, yet, when her father decides to uproot the family and move them to live near his mother, Griff, she resents the fact that no one asks her whether she wants to go.  She’s recently lost her mother, and now she’s losing her home and her best friend, too.
Leech Lake is a half hour from town.  Robin and her family will reside in the farmhouse while Griff lives in the nearby cabin.  Griff, with her curiosity, her pragmatism, and her lack of sentimentality, knows how difficult her middle grandchild is currently finding life.  She tells her, “It’s going to be all right,” and understands when Robin retorts, “No, it’s not.”
At the end of March Break, Robin finds herself in Mr. Lynch’s class at the local school.  Brittany Kingshot gets in a dig even before she gets settled into her desk, and ratchets up her efforts to make Robin’s life miserable when her boyfriend, Brodie Gentles, takes an interest in their new classmate.  When Brodie looks at Robin, she tries hard not to look back.  Brittany is the daughter of Rick Kingshot, Griff’s neighbour and the man who’s trying to convince her to sell her farm to him.  Kingshot and his two kids, Brittany and sixteen-year-old Conner, spends their weekends racing around on skidoos, ATVs and jet skis, bent on terrorizing the local wild life.
Robin finds herself paired up with Brodie and a girl named Zo-Zo for a social studies project.  Their assignment is to create a game that makes the school more environmentally friendly.   Zo-Zo, whose father is editor of the local newspaper, writes a column for the Cottage Country News, and runs a blog called Kids Biz, and the two girls have soon struck up a friendship, though Robin is cautious about getting too close.  While Zo-Zo and Brodie eagerly toss around ideas for an Eco Contest, she hangs back, reluctant to get sucked into another situation that will lead to heartache.
Instead, Robin spends every free moment in the barn behind her house looking after her Black Lab Relentless’ puppies, with Griff and Squirm’s enthusiastic help.  When they catch sight of Conner Kingshot chasing a bear cub on his ATV and realize he’s intent on shooting the small creature, Squirm and Robin run to the rescue.  They fish the cub from the old well into which he’s fallen, and convince their veterinarian father to let them look after him until his broken front leg has mended.  Their father reluctantly agrees but cautions them that, since it’s against the law to keep wild animals without a special permit, no one must learn of the cub, whom Griff has named Mukwa.  He makes it clear that there are to be no more animals.
Zo-Zo, who has heard about Relentless’ puppies, wants to see them, and take photos of them to post on her blog.  She arrives unexpectedly one afternoon with a box full of orphaned baby skunks, and is surprised at the sight of Mukwa.  Though her father has put his foot down about more wild life, Robin and Griff agree to take the skunks, and put them at the back of the barn, along with a nestful of baby squirrels Squirm has rescued, hoping Gordon Green won’t find them.
At school the next day, Zo-Zo lets it slip about Mukwa and the skunks to Brodie.
Brodie, who loves bears, bikes out to Robin’s and promptly falls in love with the little cub.  Robin is happy that her new friends share her love for animals but, later on, when she thinks about the photos Zo-Zo took of the young bear, she worries they’ll fall into the wrong hands.  Her worst fears are realized when Zo-Zo’s father happens to see the pictures and publishes them in his newspaper, and Robin’s veterinarian father is fired from his job at a local animal clinic.
After losing his job, Gord Green spends a lot of time staring at nothing, just like he did after her mother died, but Brodie and Zo-Zo each give Robin money to help feed the animals, and talk excitedly about the letters sent to the newspaper supporting the a wild life shelter.  Many of those letters contain money.
People start showing up at the farm with orphaned and sick and injured animals, but Robin’s father turns them all away until two brother’s bring in a baby horned owl.  Robin is thrilled when Griff and Gord apply for a permit to operate The Wild Place wild life shelter, however the application process is a long one.  Meanwhile Rick Kingshot, who is running for mayor, enters into kahoots with the sheriff to seize and remove the animals from Griff’s barn, and have them put down.
Griff and Gord head into the city one day to get more cages for the shelter, and Robin and Squirm are on their own.  Brodie races to the barn on his bike to warn them that the sheriff is coming.  Desperate to save the animals, Robin locked the barn and  chains herself to the doors, joined by first Squirm and then Zo-Zo.  When other kids arrive to support Robin and the animals, the police leave.
Her father is furious when he learns how Robin chained herself to the barn doors.  He’s heard the sheriff is organizing help from other police forces to seize the animals, but they won’t take Mukwa because one night his mother comes looking for the little cub and, knowing his leg is healed, Robin releases him from his cage.  Before the conflict between Rick Kingshot and his supporters, and those lobbying for The Wild Place is resolved, there will be a terrible confrontation on Leech Lake, one that nearly ends in tragedy.  It won’t be an easy journey, but Robin Green will discover that, no matter how difficult, some things are worth fighting for.
Written by Karen Hood-Caddy, Howl is the absorbing story of a young girl who, following the death of her mother, retreats into herself, determined never to care too much again for anyone or anything.  Everything changes when a litter of puppies and then a small bear cub burst into her life, followed by an assortment of skunks, squirrels and birds.  When a local bully decides to close down her family’s unofficial wild life shelter, she finds she’s ready to put herself on the line to save it and the creatures it has rescued.  A heartwarming story for animal lovers from Grade 4!
FernFolio Editor

Splinters by Kevin Sylvester


Cindy Winters loves playing hockey.  She plays on frozen ponds, where she has shown that she has the magic touch when it comes to goal scoring, and dreams of playing on a real team with a uniform and a real net but her parents struggle to pay for rent and food and she wasn’t going to ask them for help.  Instead, she does odd jobs, collects bottles and sells lemonade until she’s earned enough to sign up for a real league.
Suited up in her mother’s old equipment Cindy shows up for her first practice and falls afoul of the Blister sisters who make fun of her old skates, trip her and knock her into the boards.  They get away with their nastiness because their mother is the coach.  It isn’t long before the coach benches Cindy and then assigns her the job of equipment girl, responsible for cleaning uniforms and taping sticks.  She begins to think she will never get a chance to show what she can do on the ice.
Then one day she sees a notice pinned up on the bulletin board announcing try-outs for the all-star team coached by Charmaine Prince.  Two players from each team will be allowed to send its two best players to the try-outs.  As Cindy expects, her coach chooses her own daughters.
On the day of the try-outs, Cindy sits in her basement apartment and tries not to think of what it would be like to take part but cannot stop the tears from rolling down her cheeks.  Then suddenly she hears the sound of organ music, that that which plays in the arena during a hockey game.  She looks up and, to her surprise, she sees a little old woman dressed in a goalie uniform and hovering in the air.  The old woman tells Cindy that she’s her fairy goaltender.
With a few slashes of her stick, the little woman magically outfits Cindy in a beautiful gold and white uniform and brand-new white skates.  Soon she has hopped aboard the Zamboni that has appeared in the driveway and is off to the try-outs.  However, before she goes, her fairy goaltender warns Cindy, “The spell ends when the final buzzer sounds.  You must be off the ice.”
Once at the rink, Cindy steps past Charmaine Prince who has found a number of good players but not a star, and onto the ice.  She skates around the pylons, and takes and passes the puck cleanly.  Watching from the bench, Coach Prince knows that in the mysterious player she has found her star.  Deciding to put the girls to a real test, she divides the players into two teams and observes as they play.  Cindy finds herself on the team opposite the Blister sisters, who prove that they are skilled players.  As the game enters its final seconds, the score is tied 7-7.
The clocks counts down the last ten seconds as Cindy steals the puck and heads for the other teams net. Just as she slips past the sisters, a stick catches her foot and puts of one of her skates.  Determined, she shoots and scores the winning goal.  As the other players on her team rush toward her, Cindy realizes that the final buzzer is about to sound.  She scrambles off the ice just as her fairy goaltender’s spell ends.  Dressed once again in her mother’s old equipment, except for one shiny new skate, she hides as the other girls rush past.
The next day at practice, everyone talks about the mysterious hockey player.  Someone says that Coach Prince refuses to announce the team until she finds her.  She plans to look for the girl whose foot fits the skate left behind on the ice.  Eventually, Charmaine Prince arrives in the locker room of Cindy’s team with the shiny skate, but the poor girl is off collecting tape and pucks for the other players.  Meanwhile, determined to make the all-star team, the nasty Blister sisters have stomped on the feet of every one of their teammates.  Too bad their feet simply won’t squeeze into the skate.  Disheartened, Coach Prince is about to give up and pick her team when Cindy walks into the dressing room.
Though the Blister sisters scoff at the notion of Cindy as the mysterious star player, Coach Prince insists that she try on the skate.  To everyone’s surprise, it fits.  The sisters are still frozen in shock when Cindy reaches into her bag and pull out the other skate.  Recognizing her as the mysterious player, Charmaine Prince asks Cindy to be captain of her new team.  The two love hockey happily ever after!
Written and illustrated by the inimitable Kevin Sylvester, author of the Neil Flambé books, Splinters is heart-warming story of a girl who longs to play hockey but is prevented from showing her skills by lack of money and two nasty fellow players.  When try-outs are announced for a new all-star team, her fairy goaltender equips Cindy and sends her off to make her dreams come true!  This charming and clever Cinderella story will capture the fancies of readers from age 5!
FernFolio Editor