CM . . .
. Volume XVII Number 11. . . .November 12, 2010
Cursed! (Orca Young Readers).
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2010.
116 pp., pbk., $7.95.
Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10.
Review by Natalie Schembri.
There he stood, my grandmother's Spirit Man. He came up to my thigh, carved out of wood so dark it was almost black, wearing a scowl and a ring through his nose and a grass skirt that should have looked silly but didn't. He looked angry and strong and mean. I tried to swallow, but my throat was too dry.
I stood there, quivering. "Oh, I wish I could be brave Mackenzie Jane," I whispered to myself. I shuddered, took a deep breath, and then all in a rush I wiggled my bum, waggled my fingers, stuck out my tongue and did a little dance. "I'm not scared of you!" I said, although I didn't say it very loud.
Maureen Bush tells the story of young Jane Bartolomé, an inquisitive fifth-grader, who courageously confronts the terrifying Spirit Man statue in her grandmother's bathroom on a family trip to Sooke, southwest Vancouver Island. Jane's curious encounter with the Sprit Man leads to his continuous presence in the daily life of the Bartolomé home where his spirit instigates countless instances of bad luck as he creates a sense of anxiety in young Jane. Bush curiously explores both Jane's vexed relationship with the Spirit Man and, simultaneously, the young girl's individual growth in the face of her greatest fear. Through the perspective of imaginative Jane, Cursed! represents a world of overcoming obstacles.
"A sudden storm swept in as we drove away from Grandma's house. Sheets of rain blew across the highway. Ocean waves smashed and crashed against the shore, carried in on a high tide" and marked the beginning of Jane's anxious relationship with the Spirit Man. Jane fearfully anticipates the Spirit Man's presence in her family home, throughout her school days, and especially when she shuts her eyes to escape the reality of his haunting presence.
Bush curiously constructs Jane's character. This fifth-grader is faced with her biggest fear, Spirit Man, and must develop the courage and assertiveness to meet the Spirit Man head-on in order to obtain a triumphant personal accomplishment. Jane's personal plotting to return the Spirit Man to her grandmother's home, remove his awful curse and, at the same time, restore familiar order occurs as she is faced with: unpleasant weather conditions; missing Halloween trick-or-treating for a case of the chickenpox; sitting beside Byron Anderson, the class bully who pulls her hair in Mrs. Von Hirschberg's fifth-grade class; and other unfortunate circumstances.
Cursed! represents Jane's notable development from a frightened child into a brave young girl who can conquer her greatest and ever-present looming fear: Spirit Man. Bush's story offers readers the opportunity to live vicariously through Jane's journey to self-discovery and, further, experience a thrilling sense of obtaining confidence by overcoming obstacles. Cursed! provides readers insight into the life of fifth-grade Jane—a girl with a vivid imagination and hopeful outlook towards a curse-free future in the Bartolomé home.
Natalie Schembri, a Masters student living in London, ON, is a firm believer and promoter of literature and lifelong learning.
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