________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 2 . . . . September 17, 2004

cover Last Chance Bay.

Anne Laurel Carter.
Toronto, ON: Penguin Canada, 2004.
169 pp., pbk., $17.00.
ISBN 0-14-301663-6.

Subject Headings:
Women air pilots-Juvenile fiction.
World War, 1939-1945-Nova Scotia-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Kristin Butcher.

**** /4

Reviewed from Uncorrected Proofs.


For the longest time, right up until my fourteenth birthday, I wanted to wake up as a boy. It's not that I wanted big muscles or facial hair, and for sure I didn't want to beat the bejesus out of someone every lunch hour. I wanted to fly a plane, fly it right off the Cape Breton Island. Here in Last Chance Bay, you had to be a boy to get off the ground.

So reads the first paragraph of Last Chance Bay, and though it is a mere four sentences long, it clearly establishes the parameters and tone for the entire novel. Right away readers know where the story is set. They also know that it will be narrated by a brash, young lady just into her teens and that her tale will focus on her desire to be a boy and fly a plane.

     Meg Christie and her family live in the struggling mining community of Last Chance Bay during World War II. Like most of the men, Meg's father works in the mine, and like most of the women, Meg's mother's days are filled with domestic chores. This way of life is both expected and accepted by the residents of Last Chance Bay. The children even know it is only a matter of time before they will follow in their parents' footsteps.

     Meg, however, has other aspirations, and her days are filled with thoughts of life beyond Cape Breton Island. Like Amelia Earhart, the heroine she worships, Meg is determined to fly far away into the skies. But her plans are met with disdain by everyone except her teacher and cousin, and Meg is constantly having to fight to keep her dreams alive.

     Initially Meg feels the problem is one of gender. If she were a boy, people wouldn't keep reining her in. Eventually, though, she comes to see that realizing her dream is a matter of faith, determination, and hard work, and the only one who can stop her is herself.

     Certainly this is an important lesson to learn, but Carter's novel offers so much more. This is a story of people, and its poignancy is derived from masterful character development. From the very first paragraph, Meg springs to life, magnetically pulling readers into her world. The other residents of Last Chance Bay though not always likeable are likewise well-drawn and completely credible. Readers care what they do and say. They care about Last Chance Bay too, because Carter has made the setting such an integral part of the story that it almost feels like one of the characters.

     Last Chance Bay is a rare reading experience. It grabs you from the very first page so that you become a part of it, and when the story is done, you feel as if it happened to you. Even if you've never given flying a thought in your entire life, you will be passionate about it while you read this book.

Highly Recommended.

Kristin Butcher lives in Victoria, B.C. and writes for children.


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

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