________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 12. . . .November 20, 2009


Fight for Justice.

Lori Saigeon.
Regina, SK: Coteau Books, 2009.
102 pp., pbk., $7.95.
ISBN 978-1-55050-405-7.

Subject Headings:
Bullying -Juvenile fiction.
Twins -Juvenile fiction.
Indians of North America -Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.
Review by Ruth Sands.

**** /4



At 7:00 the next morning, Justice pulled himself out of a deep sleep as Mom called for the kids to get up. The memory of what happened to Charity at O.K. yesterday rushed back to him like a river, with him caught in the currents. He lay in bed for a few minutes before he felt he could face the day. He didnít know what he was going to do to help Charity, but he knew he was going to defend her in some way.

Their momís usual cheerfulness seemed dampened this morning. Despite Justiceís bleary eyes, he noticed that lines of worry crossed his momís face and her mouth looked drawn where a smile usually played on her lips.

Charity came into the kitchen quietly. She looked ready for school except for her bouncy step. Justice felt angry all over again. No way can those kids do this to us! He thought. Iím gonna do something about it!

ďCharity, I donít know who those kids are,Ē Mom said, ďbut I want you to stay away from them. Whatever is bugging them is their problem, not yours.Ē

That was Momís philosophy Ė donít make somebody elseís problems your problems Ė not if you can help it. Mom was a peacemaker. She just didnít have to live at school with these kids. Of course, she didnít know that some of these kids were at the same school as Charity and Justice. She really didnít know much about the whole thing; Charity had decided to keep quiet about most of it.

ďI know, Mom.Ē Charity was also a peacemaker. She didnít want to upset mom, and Justice knew she would stay as far away from those kids as possible.

I, on the other hand, he told himself, I am the man of the house, and I have to look after the others in my own way.

Lori Saigeonís Fight For Justice starts as 10-year-old Justice Stoneyplain heads to the corner store for his post-chore Saturday treats. As Justice approaches the store, he is confronted by a group of kids led by a boy from his own school. Trey seems to have something against Justice and starts calling him names and being generally unpleasant. Justice is able to come out of the encounter physically unscathed, but his shopping pleasure is destroyed as he realizes that his twin sister will be passing by the same group of kids.

     Soon after his encounter, Justiceís sister, Charity, does have a run-in with the bullies, but she is terrified that naming them will cause even more troubles. Justice resolves that he is the man of the family and it is up to him to deal with the situation. Unfortunately, his actions of revenge and then, later, retaliation only make the situation worse, and Justice finds that he is feeling worse with every action he takes. After Justice is involved in a fight at school, his mother takes the family out to the reservation to see her parents, Justiceís Mushum and Kokum. It is while spending time with his grandfather and a grumpy neighbour that Justice starts to realize that there may be a reason that Trey behaves the way he does that has nothing to do with Justice. Once back home, Justiceís mother gives him the answer to his bullying problem, and he is finally able to stand up to Trey and his friends.

     Bullying is a topic that is tough for kids to talk about, and, as much as parents, teachers and other authority figures want to help kids, they are often without the tools to do so. Saigeonís book may be a start. She has created believable characters, in a realistic setting, with some real world answers for the problem of bullying. Justice is a sincere character with whom readers, male and female alike, will identify. Saigeon has done a credible job portraying both the bully and the victim. Trey seems unreasonable, unswayable and scary, and readers are left feeling as helpless as Justice and Charity. In Justice, readers understand what it is like to be bullied; they feel the powerlessness and anger of the picked-on. As the story progresses readers are given glimpses of Treyís home life and a gradual understanding of the life of a bully. Saigeon eventually gives the reader solid solutions for dealing with the bully, without an unrealistic ending.

     What adds to the bookís strength is that all the important adults in the story are revealed to be just as unsure and as flawed as the children. Readers see the adult bully in Vanceís father, the unwillingness to make things worse in Justiceís mother, and the occasional ill-thought-out action in Justiceís Mushum. All the adults have really once been where the children are now, and this gives them a much more authoritative voice than if they appeared as perfect people.

     Added to the whole theme of bullying is a strong portrayal of the grandparents and life on the reservation. Justice clearly loves his roots and his Mushum and Kokum and presents a very positive image for the urban child. He loves what the elders have to teach him and is very excited about sharing his knowledge and heritage with his fellow classmates. Having Justice do a presentation in class about his favourite place in Canada, the reservation, really helps to bring his character alive. Saigeon has done a wonderful job tackling the issue of bullying while bringing to life a very realistic boy in Justice Stoneyplain

Highly Recommended.

Ruth Sands is a freelance writer from Vancouver, BC.

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

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