________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 3. . . .September 17, 2010


Silver Rain.

Lois Peterson.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2010.
181 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 978-1-55469-280-4.

Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.

Review by Amy Dawley.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



“Give him back,” Elsie’s voice wobbled. “That’s my dog.”

One of the men leaned forward and stared right into her eyes. “Says who?” He spat. She stepped back as a slimy gob landed on her jacket. She wanted to say, Elsie says. That’s who. That’s what Scoop would have done.

The hobo who spat was still peering at her. And the other weren’t lifting a finger to help her. She felt very small and her legs were starting to get shaky. She took one step backward.

The men took one step toward her.

As Elsie took another step back, her foot caught on a chunk of stone. She felt her ankle twist as she stumbled to catch her balance.

The men stepped forward again. Bigger steps this time.

Elsie could smell smoke and sweat and a stink like rotten potatoes. In a sliver of light between the hoboes, she saw Dog Bob being hauled away by the man. But she felt frozen in place, with a chill creeping down her legs and up into her collar. The Reverend had been right. She shouldn’t have come. With or without Scoop.

Set in Vancouver during the Depression of the 1930s, Lois Peterson’s Silver Rain tells the story of 11-year-old Elsie. Abandoned by her father right when her family needs him most, Elsie’s family finds itself barely making ends meet after the bank takes their house. Living in the old garage behind their once-happy home, Elsie finds that her close proximity to the leftovers of her old life gives her bitter daily reminders of her family’s current poor state. With curtains strung up to form bedrooms, Elsie shares the garage space with her mother, grandmother, uncle, and her uncle’s beloved dog, Dog Bob. Elsie’s mother and uncle manage to find piece work here and there to keep the family afloat, but it never seems to be enough. Compared with her friend Ernest’s home life, Elsie’s is very poor, and she feels this difference keenly.

     While Elsie struggles to come to terms with her father’s abandonment and her family’s hopeless situation, she tries to keep herself occupied by ferreting out the next big news story with her friend Ernest, nicknamed “Scoop,” a young reporter in the making. Armed with Scoop’s trusty notebook, Elsie and Scoop vow to find Elsie’s father and bring him home. They set off into the city’s shanty-town with Elsie’s uncle and dog in tow, but when they encounter ruffians and hoboes and see no sign of Elsie’s father, they turn back. However, Elsie refuses to give up and holds out hope that her father will return to them. As the story goes on, Elsie and Scoop find little diversions to occupy the boring drudgery of daily life. When they hear about a local thirty-day dance marathon that offers the winners a $1000 prize, Elsie and Scoop are mesmerized. Desperate to learn more about this strange contest, Elsie and Scoop find a way to attend the marathon and learn more about the horrible realities of the Depression than they bargained on.

      Themes of bleak hopelessness, destitution, and helplessness permeate this gritty, true-to-life story of the “Dirty Thirties.” It would be a solid addition to libraries that lack stories set during this period or libraries where junior historical novels circulate well. While more information about the Depression would have made for a stronger novel, pairing a description of the 1930s Depression with a book talk would be enough to convince historical novel readers that this story is for them.


Amy Dawley is the teen librarian at the Prince George Public Library in Prince George, BC.

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

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