CM . . .
. Volume XV Number 22. . . .June 26, 2009
Chocolate River Rescue.
Jennifer McGrath Kent.
Halifax, NS: Nimbus, 2007.
108 pp., pbk., $8.95.
Petitcodiac River (N.B.)-Juvenile fiction.
Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.
Review by Tanya Boudreau.
"Maybe we should swim for it," said Tony.
"I don't know," said Shawn doubtfully.
"What other chance do we have?" said Tony.
"We've gone around the bend. Nobody can reach us now. We should swim before the river gets any wider. The bank doesn't look that far."
Shawn squinted at the bank. It looked pretty far to him.
"I can't swim very well," shivered Craig. "I can't even feel my feet anymore."
The ice floe bobbed as a wave washed against it, sending another ripple of water across their boots. The boys braced themselves on the slick, wet ice, clutching each other's arms.
"We've got to do something," persisted Tony. "We can't stay on this thing. We'll freeze!"
"If we swim, we'll freeze and drown," said Shawn, bluntly. "The water's too cold. And look at those banks…we'd never be able to climb up them."
"If we stay on this ice floe, we're dead anyway," argued Tony. "We're either gonna freeze to death or get tipped into the river or float out to the ocean. What other choice have we got? We've gone around the bend. It's the point of no return, guys! Don't you get it? Nobody is coming for us."
It looks like hot chocolate in the summer and a chocolate milkshake in the winter, but the Petitcodiac River in New Brunswick is also known for its high tides and fast moving water. It would be deadly to be on this river in the middle of winter on a piece of slippery ice that is getting smaller and smaller and heading straight for the ocean. Survival would mean figuring out how to keep warm after the waves have soaked your clothes, and how to stay awake so you don't freeze to death. Twelve-year-old Shawn Mahoney, his nine-year-old brother Craig, and Shawn's best friend Tony know exactly what it's like to be trapped on ice floating down the Petitcodiac River though. They feel cold and scared, and sometimes hopeless- especially when the rescuers fail to reach them. As the boys move further away from land, they have to be resourceful and find ways to keep their spirits up. Shawn uses his inventiveness to keep everyone safe. Tony's sense of humor helps keeps everyone feeling upbeat, and Craig's quick thinking saves their lives more than once. At times, the friends see rescuers trying to reach them, but no one manages to get close enough to pull them to safety. After several failed rescues, when the boys do spot a boat coming their way, they wonder if it's a hallucination. Looking at their rescuers, Tony says, "…it looks like there's a bear driving that boat." It's not a bear heading towards the boys though, but it is an animal that is pretty big and hairy, and he's not alone. Steering the boat is Petra. She is a brave, prepared 12-year-old girl who won't let a clogged-up motor stop her from reaching her destination.
Inspired by true events, Chocolate River Rescue mixes adventure and humor with a little bit of New Brunswick history. During many of their near misses with disaster, Tony makes Shawn and Craig (not to mention the reader) laugh, and when Shawn reminisces about his history class, he thinks about how the Petitcodiac River was named. Information about the Hopewell Rocks and Newfoundland dogs are also incorporated seamlessly into the story.
The author gave this book a very appealing title, and it fits well with the story. When describing the river at the beginning of the book, the author compares the river to chocolate, and she picks up this chocolate theme again at the end of the book by including a huge chocolate celebration for the rescuers. I would say the only thing missing from this book is some of the chocolate recipes mentioned in the story!
Jennifer McGrath Kent taught English at the University of Moncton and Mount Allison University. A freelance writer and creator of literacy workshops for children, her book White Cave Escape is the sequel to Chocolate River Rescue. She lives in New Brunswick.
Tanya Boudreau is a librarian at the Cold Lake Library in Cold Lake, AB.
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