CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 16. . . .December 17, 2010.
Colette and the Silver Samovar. (Orca Young Readers).
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2010.
141 pp., pbk., $7.95.
Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10.
Review by Myra Junyk.
I wished my father was there to say that this was all silly superstitious nonsense.
Finally Soroya spoke. Both of your cups are showing change." She pointed at a clump of glistening leaves on the rim of my mother's cup. "The leaves nearest the rim tell us about the future," she said. "They form the shape of a dagger."
It did look like a dagger. It looked like a dagger I'd seen once in a museum, a dagger with a curved blade that was used by an Egyptian prince.
"What does that mean?" my mother asked.
"It means danger," said Soraya, and then she stopped.
"Danger?" my mother persisted.
"You must be careful," Soraya said. "Watch for the unexpected. Be cautious."
"What does mine say?" I asked.
"These leaves are in the shape of an iceberg," she said. "There is danger here also. It could be related to your mother's reading. But," she said, lowering her voice and pointing at another clump of leaves, "here we see an elephant. An elephant is a sign of wisdom and strength. It means you will know how to handle what lies ahead."
Nine-year-old Colette Faizal is a confident young girl who wants to be a writer. Although her father advises her to be more modest, her mother encourages her self-confidence. Her mother is an art instructor at a drop-in centre for street people, and her father is an engineer from Iran who now drives a taxi. Colette does not know her grandparents because of a family conflict over her parents' marriage. On the way home from school one day, Colette's mother takes her to a fortune teller. Colette and her mother find out that there will be great changes in their lives. Colette must be strong to deal with these changes!
When her father travels all the way to Iran to ask his family for help, Colette is afraid of the future. The very first day of his trip, her mother is critically injured in a traffic accident, and Colette ends up at the home of her grandparents whom she doesn't know! While there, she befriends Mrs. Ethelberta Jarvis, an elderly neighbour, and becomes involved in solving her problems.
Colette learns a great deal about her own strengths and her extended family throughout the course of this novel. At times, she seems much older than her nine years. At the beginning of the novel, we find out that she is very talkative, confident and superstitious. She learns discretion and modesty when her home situation changes drastically.
Although the plot relies heavily on coincidence, Colette and the Silver Samovar is an interesting novel which addresses complex issues, such as superstition, interfaith marriages, family conflicts, brain injury and poverty, Persian mythology, old age, friendship and responsibility. The multicultural connections in this novel will give readers insight into Iranian culture and traditions. The silver samovar in the title becomes a symbol of the powerful lesson of this novel: "Sometimes you must do what is right whether or not it is in your best interests."
Myra Junyk, who lives in Toronto, ON, is a literacy advocate and author.
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