CM . . .
. Volume XV Number 3. . . .September 26, 2008
It is a very difficult task for an adult to get inside the mind of a young boy, especially a boy with as many hang-ups as Mike (Lester B. only to his mother and a few of his teachers) Hopkins, but Dianne Linden has done an incredibly convincing job of it. Mike is a kid who seems to me to be on the edge of autism, though the word is never mentioned. At any rate, he has a lot of worried questions and some pretty strange experiences for which he comes up with some pretty strange answers. At the pool for the annual pet swim that traditionally finishes off the outdoor swimming season, he is accidentally pushed into the water, nearly drowns, and feels that he has been summoned back to life by a silvery dog with opalescent eyes. This ties in with a book he comes across in the library which describes an ancient belief that dogs actually guard the gates of Death. Later he identifies his saviour dog with a stray he insists the family adopt, to whom he talks--no, with whom he converses!--and from whom he gets a lot of good philosophy, even if not exactly advice.
Mike could use a bit of help. His mother has determined to go to Bosnia with the reserve army, a story we have already heard from Mike's sister Nellie's point of view in Peacekeepers. Mike and Nellie have to cope with moving to Edmonton to live with their uncle Martin, going to new schools, their mother's being far away and in danger, and Nellie's being attacked by school bullies. Of course, there are also some good bits. Inspired by Mike's stories of the school his mother is working to establish in Bosnia and one little boy there in particular, Mike's grade two class collects school supplies and does a wonderful class project on peacekeeping in Bosnia, highlighted by Mike's own Power Point presentation. Mike also makes friends with an old man and his dog who live across the street from Uncle Martin and who dishes out more philosophy, stories, and plain cookies ("without wrinkles" as Mike has very distinct dislikes in food, especially textures).
Mary Thomas works in an elementary school library in Winnipeg, MB, where autism is one of the facts of life for some children.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.