________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 8 . . . . December 5, 2008

cover Meeting Miss 405.

Lois Peterson.
Victoria, BC: Orca Books, 2008.
102 pp., pbk., $7.95.
ISBN 978-1-55469-015-2.

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.

Review by Claire Perrin.

*** /4


I have a pulling feeling inside where my heart hurts. I close my eyes and put my hands on my chest. I feel the hard bone under my shirt and wait for the ache to pass. But it is still there.

When I open my eyes, Parveen is sitting at the table with a handful of brushes, running her fingers gently across the soft bristles. “Go on. Tell,” she says. Then instead of waiting for me, she does the telling. “Those mean kids? There are two of them. And sometimes their other friends.

They yell at Tansy and tell lies to everyone else about her mom. May I have a snack, please? And a glass of water?”

What could be worse than being bullied at school? The answer is – having a mother who is away being treated for depression and being an only child? Just when it seemed that life couldn’t be more confusing, Tansy’s life takes one more turn for the worse. Or so it seems. Miss 405 is the elderly Miss Stella who lives in the apartment down the hall from Tansy and her father. She steps in as an after-school babysitter during the family crisis, much to Tansy’s displeasure. Miss Stella lives alone, doesn’t own a TV, eats sardines and wine gums, and seems to have very little to offer to a preteen girl.

     There are several storylines and themes that are skillfully intertwined in this novel. Although Tansy’s mother barely makes an appearance until the end of the story, this storyline is the most important for the main character and her father. A secondary problem is that Tansy is being teased and bullied at school because of her mother’s illness. To make matters worse, friends are few and far between and Tansy needs someone to talk to. Of most interest for the readers is the storyline of the relationship between a young girl and an elderly woman. Though the pair seem worlds apart, they are able to find common ground. The character of quirky Miss Stella is particularly unique and appealing.

     Initially, the thought of spending time with Miss Stella in apartment 405 seems repulsive to Tansy. However, with each afternoon visit, she discovers that Miss Stella is an interesting and wise companion. In fact, she is a renowned calligrapher with a talent for being meticulous and “super-concentrated.” Miss Stella teaches Tansy both of these skills as well as filling the role of confidante. Over time, Tansy is able to solve some of the problems she is having, develop her own talents in calligraphy and come to terms with her mother’s absence.

     In spite of the somewhat complicated themes of loneliness and discrimination, the physical presentation of the book and the uncomplicated vocabulary make the book readable for the 8-11 year old reader. It is written in the first person, adding to the novel’s readability. Because both of the main characters are female, Meeting Miss 405 may appeal more to girls than boys. The cover illustration is slightly old-fashioned looking and may not be instantly appealing to today’s readers.

     Meeting Miss 405 is Lois Peterson’s first children’s novel.


Claire Perrin is a full-time teacher-librarian with the Toronto District School Board.

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

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