________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 9 . . . .January 7, 2005


Cougar Cove.

Julie Lawson.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2004.
152 pp., pbk., $8.95.
ISBN 1-55143-072-X.

Subject Headings:
Puma-Juvenile fiction.
Cousins-Juvenile fiction.
Practical jokes-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.

Review by Harriet Zaidman.

**** /4



Cougar Cove is a gripping real-life adventure story for pre-adolescent girls; it presents a very possible modern-day situation a city girl who nags her parents into sending her to visit rural relatives. When she get there, she find she is a fish out of water, or, in Samantha's case, a hermit crab out of her shell.

     Sam is an 11-year old Trawna girl, as one of her twin cousins derisively pronounces the name "Toronto." She is thrilled with the idea of spending a month on Vancouver Island with cousins she met a few years before. However, the twins have grown from sweet friends into hormonal teens. The girl, Robin, has many chips on her shoulder, and Alex continually reminds her that she will be "tested." They dub her "Gullible" and play one trick after another, using her lack of knowledge of wildlife and rural life to their advantage. Alternatively, they ignore her and exclude her from their activities. Intervention by the twins' parents proves fruitless; the diary in which Sam had planned on record her marvelous month becomes a venting ground for the time she must endure with "The Horribles."

At least I caught a fish and it didn't get away. But I didn't really catch it. What a stupid fish, to let itself get caught. And I'm just as stupid because nobody hooked me into coming here. I could have opened my mouth and let go of the idea any time. And stayed home.

Mom was right. My cousins, the Horribles, don't want me here. I hate them and I'm never going in their runabout again.

     Her frustration leads Sam to engage in risky activity. On her lone adventure, she sees a cougar and two kittens. Her cousins doubt her, but their disbelief vanishes when all three kids encounter a male cougar while out on a hike. Sam's research and quick thinking prove invaluable, and, at the end of her visit, strong bonds are finally built with her know-it-all cousins.

     Sam's experience affects her greatly. Ostracism by her cousins caused her to spend a great deal of time observing nature a complete contrast with the noisy concrete jungle of downtown Toronto. The vision of the cougars is marked in her memory. It is a full year later when she is able to draw on her experiences and take a new step in her own development. The conclusion of this story can be described as thrilling, satisfying, possible, happy, and perfect. It's the right ending for Sam. Young readers will be pleased with how she makes the most of her most unusual month. Julie Lawson is to be commended for this engaging novel.

Highly Recommended.

Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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

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