________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 13. . . .November 27, 2009.


On the Trail of the Bushman. (Orca Young Readers).

Anita Daher.
Victoria, BC: Orca Books, 2009.
118 pp., pbk., $7.95.
ISBN 978-1-55469-013-8.

Subject Headings:
Camps-Juvenile fiction.
Wilderness survival-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10.

Review by Elizabeth Walker.





[Tommy] looked behind him.

The trail was clear.

He took a deep breath and let it out again noisily, hoping the sound would distract him from how silly he was being. He couldn’t help it. Maybe it was the smell, but all he could think about was their talk around the campfire last night, especially the stuff about the bushman and the windigo. Suddenly a shriek split the air! As if under attack, the horses began rearing. Who had screamed? Was it him? Maybe he’d been so freaked out and jumpy…… but he didn’t recall opening his mouth.

Tommy, a Junior Canadian Ranger who is spending his summer vacation at a camp in the Yukon, encounters a terrifying backwoods figure when he and his friends become stranded in the woods. Haunted by images of the legendary Bushman and Windigo, not to mention considerable guilt about his involvement with a destructive fire, Tommy must use his wits in order to bring a delusional murderer to justice.

     On the Trail of the Bushman is the second novel by Anita Daher that I have reviewed, and as with Poachers in the Pingos, I find it difficult to come to a definitive conclusion about the merits of this work.

     On the one hand, Daher’s prose is often clunky: a rather unnecessary number of narrative sentences end in exclamation points, for example (“Suddenly, a shriek split the air!”); and the characters often speak in stilted, unnatural dialogue almost entirely devoid of contractions. The characters are bland, the setting largely nondescript, and the action predictable.

     On the other hand, it is hard to deny that this book is quite a pleasing page turner. Despite her weaknesses, Daher is adept at creating suspense and moving her plots along rapidly. And there are some moments of rather lovely prose: “Something in Tommy’s soul drank in the tang of pine, the smell of the earth. This was a place where a person could go to forget and be forgotten about.” Perhaps with a more demanding editor, Daher’s novels could evolve into something truly memorable. As it stands now, however, On the Trail of the Bushman is a forgettable but fun quick read.


Elizabeth Walker is a teacher-librarian in Vancouver, BC.

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

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