________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 7 . . . .November 25, 2005


Dark Times.

Ann Walsh, ed.
Vancouver, BC: Ronsdale Press, 2005.
182 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 1-55380-028-1.

Subject Headings:
Death-Juvenile fiction.
Grief-Juvenile fiction.
Youth and death-Juvenile fiction.
Children’s stories, Canadian (English).

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.

Review by Ann Ketcheson.

**** /4



She had come back. Just like that. One moment there was this crazy person sitting beside me, and the next moment my grandmother was back. Suddenly I felt like crying, too.

I reached out and took her hand again, held it tightly. She didn't say another word for the rest of the trip.

Then it was our stop. I stood up. "Come on, Gran," I said. "We're here."

Her face changed again. She grabbed onto the back of the seat in front of her and said, "I'm not moving. You're trying to trick me." (From “All is Calm.”)


Dark Times is a remarkable anthology of 13 short stories written for young adults. Award-winning author Ann Walsh compiled the book from over 200 submissions in a Canada-wide contest. These are the best of the best. Contributors, most of whom are based in western Canada, include well-known young adult writers as well as some newer faces; several are award winners. Authors include Sarah Ellis, Lee Maracle, Ann Walsh, Alison Lohans, Diana Aspin, Carolyn Pogue, Carrie Mac, Donna Gamache, Gina Rozon, Libby Kennedy, Betty Jane Hegerat, Patricia McCowan and Jessie May Keller.

     Each story deals in some way with the sense of loss or grief which comes to all of us during the dark times in our own lives. The situations vary greatly from story to story. The loss may be due to Alzheimer's disease or another physical illness, to mental illness, to family breakdown or, as one would expect, to death. All of the settings and characters are realistic and believable for contemporary teens.

      Despite its title, this is not a book which leaves the reader sad and depressed for, although loss is a common theme, it is balanced by the reminder that humans have an amazing ability to survive. Within the stories are glimpses of humour and of the strong instinct we all have to overcome hardships, carry on, and make the best of whatever hand life might deal us.

      The cover of the book is both attracting and intriguing, depicting an androgynous youth who looks neither happy nor sad, but rather pensive and serious. Part of the photo blends into the darkness, but half of the face is clearly lit—a symbol perhaps that the stories deal with characters who must endure various forms of darkness but who ultimately emerge into the light of survival. This is an excellent anthology. The stories can be read as a group or, alternatively, each stands on its own merits as a separate entity. Because they deal with contemporary issues, the stories could certainly be used as springboards for a class discussion or as the basis for students' personal responses or creative writing.

Highly Recommended.

Ann Ketcheson is a former teacher-librarian and teacher of high school English and French. She lives in Ottawa, ON.

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

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