CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 8 . . . .December 8, 2006
Chasing the Moon.
Winlaw, BC: Sono Nis Press, 2006.
255 pp., pbk., $9.95.
Smuggling-British Columbia-Vancouver Island-History-20th century-Juvenile fiction.
Grades 3-8 / Ages 8-13.
Review by Vikki VanSickle.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
Travel on water. Caleb had used those words when he had told her fortune weeks ago. And it was almost as if she could hear his voice whispering into her ear now. Travel on water. She hugged her knees and shivered in her light sweater and overalls. Everything Caleb had predicted had come true. One by one, starting with the tricks, lies, and deception of the Moon card, her fortune was unfolding just as he said it would.
Kit raised her eyes to the heavens. There was the real moon now: luminous, grown plumper in the last few nights, almost a full moon. It hung just out of reach, and its reflection danced, tantalizingly, across the water. The boat rushed eastward, along the path of moonlight. They were chasing the moon.
Chasing the Moon is set in and around Vancouver Island in 1924. Twelve-year-old Kit Avery has been sent to stay with her father at their family farm in Home Again Bay, near the Saanich Peninsula, while her mother recovers from tuberculosis in a hospital ward in Victoria. Kit's parents have lived apart for three years. When she arrives, Kit is surprised to see that her father has neglected the farm.
Kit's father doesn't have much time for his daughter. He works late into the night and sleeps past noon, but he won't tell Kit what it is he does or why he has put a brand new padlock on the barn. What little time he does have is spent with Vivian, a gold-digging flapper from town with hopes of stardom. Vivian has her sights set on Kit's father and goes to great lengths to squeeze Kit out of the picture. Life seems to be unbearable for Kit until Caleb shows up in the abandoned picker's shed.
Caleb, a runaway magician's assistant, is escaping an abusive father. Kit allows him to stay in the abandoned picker's shed, and the two become good friends. Water is scarce on the farm, and Caleb uses his gift for divining water to find the best spot for a new well on the farm. Together, Caleb and Kit start building the well to surprise Kit's father.
But when Kit's father turns up one night with a gunshot wound and enlists Caleb to help him with his mysterious night time endeavours, Kit becomes suspicious. Determined to get to the bottom of it all, Kit becomes a stowaway on her father's boat and sets off on an adventure that will change her life.
Chasing the Moon is a very satisfying read. Penny Chamberlain has a smooth writing style and an eye for historical detail that gives the book a feeling of authenticity. Chasing the Moon is historical fiction, but Chamberlain includes a compelling thread of supernatural intrigue. Not only does Caleb have the ability to divine water, but he gives an accurate reading of Kit's future. The reader will enjoy how these predictions unfold throughout the novel. Kit also discovers that she, herself, may have a touch of the second sight. This element of the supernatural adds to the mystery of the novel in a way that is neither obtrusive nor unbelievable. Chamberlain respects her reader by creating complex, realistic characters in a credible situation. The book ends on a hopeful note but avoids a clichéd happy ending in which everything is resolved. Kit's mother is still recovering, and her father has made no promises to curb his thrill-seeking lifestyle choices. Child readers will be able to relate to such an ending and will appreciate the honesty of the outcome. Chamberlain avoids moralizing and presents a complex portrayal of the issues surrounding Prohibition, including a brief historical note in the back of
Chasing the Moon is a solid sophomore novel from a promising Canadian writer.
Vikki VanSickle is completing her Masters in Children's Literature at the University of British Columbia. She is originally from Woodstock, ON, and is currently residing in Vancouver, BC.
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