CM Archive
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By Margaret Buffie
Toronto, Kids Can Press, 1992. 214pp, paper,
ISBN 1-55074-114-4 (cloth) $14.95,
ISBN 155074-091-1 (paper) $4.95. CIP

Subject Headings:
Family-Juvenile fiction.
Ghost stories.

Grades 7-9 / Ages 12-14

Review by Anna Santarossa

Volume 20 Number 6
1992 November

Sixteen-year-old Jess and her parents buy and move to a guest ranch in Alberta. Her family is trying to recover from the death of Jess's little brother Scotty. Jess's father is pretending nothing out of the ordinary is happening. Jess is coping by working very hard on the ranch and by trying to make some sense of what is happening around her. Jess's mother is retreating into her own world, where it seems that no one can reach her, no one except the "ghost" of a little boy that she keeps seeing. Jess's mother thinks that boy is Scotty, but Jess thinks otherwise and gathers as much evidence as she can to prove it.

The reader is familiar with the ghost because, as the story of Jess and her family unfolds, so does the story of Ian Shaw and his family. The author simultaneously tells the two stories. We are introduced to Ian through his journal, in which he records his life as a crippled boy living in the early 1900s on the same Alberta ranch. Ian's main problem is not his injured leg, but his strong-willed mother, who keeps him a virtual prisoner in his own room.

The two stories merge when both families face disaster. Jess's mother is about to slip into the oblivion of her own world when Jess decides to tell her the story of Ian Shaw and to show her his journal. Jess's mother is angry at having her own delusion of the ghost being Scotty shattered. But when Jess and her mother confront their true feelings, they become reconciled. They also help Ian and his mother forgive each other when, in a rare instant past and present coincide. Ian and his mother can now rest in peace, while Jess and her family can get on with their lives, despite their grief.

The story was riveting from beginning to end. The fact that it was well written and insightful made the characters seem real. I truly enjoyed the interplay between past and present. Both stories are so interesting they could have easily stood alone. Together the stories create suspense and add another dimension to the novel.

This book is a must. Readers will not be able to put it down.

Anna Santarossa is a teacher-librarian in Bolton, Ontario
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