________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 3. . . .September 26, 2008


Pete's Gold.

Luanne Armstrong.
Vancouver, BC: Ronsdale Press, 2008.
188 pp., pbk., $10.95.
ISBN 978-1-55380-059-0.

Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.

Review by Tanya Boudreau.

*** /4



Almost drowning yesterday had been his introduction to country life. Now, lying here on the bed, he wondered how much worse it could get. Suddenly, his grandmother shoved open the door and stomped back into his room.

"Here," she said. "These were your dad's." She dumped a stack of ancient comic books on his bed. "You know, this was his room."

Pete looked around the room. He knew his dad had grown up here but it had never seemed real to him. Now, in spite of himself, he was impressed when he looked at the comics- early editions of Spiderman, Batman, Sandman. His dad used to read comics? Weird. His father never talked about the farm or growing up here. The comic books were enclosed in plastic covers.

"Grandma," he said. She paused on her way out the door. "Is there really a monster in the lake?"


It's not looking to be a good summer. Pete's parents are on the brink of divorce, he's been dumped off at his grandmother's old farm, and he's miles away from his friends in Victoria. There is no stereo, no TV, and no computer on the farm, but this is no surprise. Everything seems to be falling apart and in need of repair. Pete is anticipating a summer full of chores and boredom, but what he gets instead is a summer full of accomplishments and adventure! This summer, a lake monster, a dead body, ghostly apparitions, and violent storms will test Pete's bravery and resourcefulness while his evolving relationship with his family members and new country friends will test Pete's self-perceptions and values.

     Pete doesn't make the best of decisions during his first few days on the farm. On his first day in the country, Pete doesn't even think twice about going out on the lake without a life jacket or hat. That turns out to be a decision Pete regrets, especially after he loses the boat oar! He's going to have to dive into the water to retrieve it if he wants to get back to shore. Not only is the water bitterly cold, but he might encounter whatever was making those shadows and ripples under the boat. Now Pete can add humiliation to his mix of negative emotions. On top of the anger he's feeling about his parents' divorce, he's embarrassed that his grandmother saw the spectacle he made of himself on the water! When back at the farmhouse, Pete continues to act in ways he will regret. He takes all his frustrations out on his grandmother. He's rude and shuns all her suggestions. But with time- and some new distractions- Pete's judgments and actions become more positive. He sees a different side of his grandmother. Life with her is going to be VERY different than life with his parents. She gives him donuts for breakfast, offers to teach him to drive, and allows him to stay home alone. Pete is experiencing freedom and trust for what feels like the first time! In turn, Pete downloads computer games for his grandmother, helps out with farm chores, and goes with her to explore caves along the beach.

      Soon Pete is feeling a connection to his grandmother's farm and the people who used to live on it. Spending time with his grandmother and listening to family stories, Pete learns about his great-great grandfather and a possible connection to an old map and a treasure of hidden gold and silver. When Pete finds out the farm he now loves might be sold, his interest in the lost treasure becomes almost an obsession! With the farm in danger of being sold, a grandmother to cheer up, new friends to impress, and parents to prove wrong, Pete decides to find the treasure himself. With Cousin the dog as company, a friendly ghost to give him hints, and a fierce determination to succeed, Pete makes a discovery that will bring his family closer together and keep his new friends in awe.

      Luanne Armstrong has written a book that will appeal to children who enjoy the adventure that comes along with finding lost treasures. But in combining an adventure story that accurately tackles issues such as divorce, debt and illness, Armstrong's newest book will also appeal to readers who enjoy realistic fiction. A professor of Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia, Armstrong writes fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Her books include the award winning title Annie and the Silver Birch Award nominee Jeannie and the Gentle Giants. Luanne lives on an organic farm in British Columbia.


Tanya Boudreau is a librarian at the Cold Lake Public Library in Cold Lake, AB.

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

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.