________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 15 . . . . March 16, 2007


In Search of Cadiz.

Kim Macsymic.
St. John’s, NL: Breakwater Books, 2006.
148 pp., pbk., $11.95.
ISBN 1-55081-150-9.

Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.

Review by Reece Steinberg.

** /4


The cold grey morning gripped him in icy disparity to the light and heat of his dream. He lay back and reflected on the images he had met in his sleep. Was his subconscious speaking to him or only his imagination? He opened his hands and saw the antler totem. He bolted up and began to search for the others. He found them hiding in the moss. Nothing supernatural. He must have dropped them as he was dreaming.

In Search of Cadiz is the classic story of a young person who is angry at the world, survives an ordeal, and comes to appreciate what he has. Unfortunately, the writing doesn't take the reader much further into the story, nor make it particularly moving, authentic or unique. In its favour, the slim novel does give a brief taste of the culture of a small Newfoundland village and offers a few gripping moments and interesting practical information.

     Cadiz is 14-years-old and filled with anger and sorrow at the death of his older brother as well as his grandfather. He has alienated most of the people at school, and his parents are unsure of how to help him. After an argument with his only friend, Cadiz spontaneously goes out kayaking to blow off some steam but ends up shipwrecked on a small rocky island. Here, Cadiz learns to turn his anger into resilience and strength, and, using skills his grandfather taught him, he manages to survive until help arrives. During his time on the island, Cadiz experiences dreams or visions of a Beothuk community and learns from the words of one of the elders around a fire. Cadiz also encounters difficult situations such as the discovery of a body as well as the dilemma of whether to kill an injured seal or not. A vicious polar bear swims onto the island, terrorizing Cadiz who must hide inside his narrow cave though he can hear the rescue helicopter overhead.

     As a whole, this story is rather clichéd, but the parts that are interesting may be enough to hold the attention of young people who can identify with Cadiz or who are interested in Newfoundland, outdoor survival or the Beothuk. One of the unique features of the story is that Cadiz manages to intertwine stories about his deceased brother and grandfather with lessons that the grandfather taught, and, in doing so, he teaches the reader. These practical instructions include how to make fire in two different ways and how to find an underground source of fresh water:

As he began a slow decent toward the north shore Cadiz, noticed red moss bright as fire in the sunlight. His heart began to race. His granddad had shown him and Brian many times that this was good indication of fresh water. He ran towards the spot, his eyes widening as last year's rusty Labrador tea leaves encouraged his suspicions.

     Cadiz's grandfather also had told him about the Beothuk, information which helped Cadiz to recognize ancient artifacts he finds on the island. Some information on the history and culture of the Beothuk is conveyed through Cadiz's thoughts and the descriptions of his visions.

     The author does a good job of depicting phrases and words with a Newfoundland village flavour. Unfortunately she is not as successful when trying to depict the speech and thoughts of a 14-year-old boy. The text comes across as somewhat flat and condescending, which is perhaps what might be most disappointing to a young person hoping to relate to Cadiz.

     This book has potential as a story and has clever elements. Sadly, it gives the impression of being rushed or not quite finished. This impression is strengthened by the many blatant spelling and grammatical errors throughout the book. In Search of Cadiz may be a reasonable selection for schools or libraries for its Newfoundland/Canadian content, but, with regard to the plot, other similar books have done a better job.

Recommended with reservations.

Reece Steinberg, a librarian at Vancouver Public Library, currently works in the Business & Science, and Virtual Reference divisions.

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

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