CM . . .
. Volume XV Number 22. . . .June 26, 2009
Winnipeg, MB: Great Plains, 2009.
187 pp., pbk., $14.95.
Grades 6-8 / Ages 11-13.
Review by Pam Klassen-Dueck.
**1/2 / 4
The trapper struck the wooden match on his chipped teeth. It flashed and flickered to life. He touched it to the saturated cloth, which smouldered and lit. Jake ran, stumbled, quickly recovered, and calculated when to throw the burning bottle. The farther he was, the less accurate he would be, but the closer he got, the bigger the risk.
Fourteen-year-old Jake Lucknow lives with his newly discovered grandfather in an isolated cabin on the Lake of the Clouds. Despite the beautiful landscape, ominous things abound. In the springtime, the rotting corpse of the mighty joaquin that terrorized Jake and his sister Claire last summer resurfaces from the snow, oozing a poisonous blue sludge that attracts the attention of a pack of wolves, which subsequently mutates into a group of monsters. When the wolves strike unexpectedly, Jake must find a way to stop them from devouring everything in their path.
In this continuation of The Gem Lakes, which was a finalist for the Manitoba Young Readers' Choice Award, Jake learns to live a hunting-and-gathering existence on the magnetic field of the Gem Lakes, which is magically preventing his golf ball sized tumour from claiming his life. The novel contains interesting tidbits about Jake's new life in Manitoba's Interlake region, including the kinds of mushrooms for which to forage, the value of salvaging unexpected finds (e.g. supplies from a crashed cargo plane), and the importance of using dry rocks to surround a campfire (unless you're looking to be under missile attack when they heat up!).
Though Jake is often alone in his wild life, he seems to be content and quite eager to learn the lessons of growing up in nature, even as his constant fear of the mutant wolves overshadows each step he takes. He takes joy in observing his surroundings, noting that "[r]emarkable things happened everyday (sic) if you were just willing to step out the door and look for them" –– such as a feeding frenzy of dragonflies sighted on his sixteenth birthday. Though Jake misses his family, his friends, and the amenities of his old life, he knows that the Gem Lakes hold the key to his remission; but on top of that, he seems to appreciate learning how to live simply and consciously.
While I'm not sure that the novel will have a wide appeal, mainly because the narrative never really sparks, I think that this outdoor adventure tale may attract readers of similar books, such as Gary Paulsen's classic, Hatchet.
Pam Klassen-Dueck is a graduate student in the M.Ed. program at Brock University.
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