CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 5. . . .October 2, 2009.
Chasing a Star.
Vancouver, BC: Ronsdale Press, 2009.
180 pp., pbk., $10.95.
Scott, Barbara Ann, 1928-Juvenile fiction.
Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.
Review by Kim Aippersbach.
“Did you girls not hear?” Miss Peacock peered over her glasses at them.
“Um, I didn’t bring my gym shorts today,” Mary Ellen mumbled, her face red.
“Me neither.” Sophie shook her head.
“Well, no matter,” Miss Peacock said, in her squeaky voice. “I always have a few extra pairs of shorts that my dear mother has sewn for me for just such an occasion. But I don’t often have a chance to use them. Don’t know why, but I find students in my classes seldom forget their shorts.”
She rummaged in a low cupboard and came up with two pairs of the most ghastly orange bloomers Sophie had ever seen.
“Hurry now, girls,” Miss Peacock handed them each a pair. “Our time is a-wasting.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Sophie noticed May-Beth and a couple other girls were giggling behind cupped hands at her and Mary Ellen.
Chasing a Star is a pleasant, if somewhat contrived, story of a young girl’s encounter with figure skater Barbara Ann Scott. When 12-year-old Sophie finds out that Scott will be in town to perform, she is willing to do anything to meet her: she leaves school grounds at lunch, though it’s against the rules; she rides with her older brother, Joseph, to hockey practice on his motorcycle, without her mother’s permission. Finally her glamorous aunt helps arrange a meeting with Scott, and then Sophie and her aunt are asked to sing at the skating performance. In the meantime, Joseph is being recruited by a motorcycle gang that is plotting to kidnap Scott, but Sophie intervenes at the end, informing the police of the kidnapping plot and getting Joseph to fill in for a missing skater at the performance instead of going to the gang’s initiation.
The most convincing parts of the novel are the scenes at home with Sophie’s family or at her new school. The various relationships and conflicts are well-drawn, and little period details, like the gym shorts in the excerpt above, give a clear picture of life in 1950's Vancouver. Sophie is a likeable character, and the supporting characters, including the adults, are well fleshed-out.
The subplot with the motorcycle gang feels as though it was added in to provide more action in an otherwise quiet plot; it would have been more interesting to develop Sophie’s relationship with her new friend, Mary Ellen, who plays a small role in the plot and then disappears. Chasing a Star is a domestic novel, and the suspense of the gang scenes seems forced. But overall the plot is well paced and the narrative flows smoothly.
Chasing a Star will appeal particularly to girls interested in figure skating. As it introduces Barbara Ann Scott to a new generation of Canadians, it would be an appropriate choice in this pre-Olympic year.
Kim Aippersbach is a freelance editor and writer with three children in Vancouver, BC.
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