CM . . .
. Volume XVII Number 6. . . .October 8, 2010
Crow Boy. (Veil of Magic, Bk. 2).
Regina, SK: Coteau Books, 2010
115 pp., pbk., $7.95.
Grades 3-7 / Ages 8-12.
Review by Janet Margaret Johnson.
Then my heart stopped as I heard a roar from below me. I stared down to see Gonvald leaping out of the wall of the mountain. I couldn't see where he'd come from – it must have been from a cave or crevice in the cliff face.
He leapt for Maddy, bellowing "I want my ring!" His voice echoed back and forth against the mountains sounding like dozens of trolls surrounding us.
He hurtled down the mountain towards her, panting and furious. As he raced past, below me on the mountainside, I flung myself off the cliff above him, toppling him before he could reach Maddy. We rolled and bounced down a scree slope, loose rock sliding under us, dumping us down towards the lake. I could hear shouts from behind and above as the others scrambled to reach us.
We flipped over each other, bouncing off rocks, and then skidded to a stop against the side of a huge boulder. Gronvald was on top, pinning me to the ground. Rocks dug into me from below. I struggled and tried to throw him off, but Gronvald was bigger and heavier and much meaner. He grabbed my head, ready to smack it against the rock.
In Crow Boy, which follows on from the adventure, The Nexus Ring, that took place in July to Autumn, we again encounter Josh and Maddy on Josh's twelfth birthday. This is the second book in what might well become a series of adventures for two siblings, Maddy and Josh. In the Nexus Ring, Maddy and Josh discover a magical parallel world that is hidden from the human world. Magic folk could enter our world if they used this ring, but each time they use the ring, a rift or tear is caused in the veil that keeps the magical world safe from human pollution. Maddy and Josh rescued the ring from an evil Troll and became friends with several magical beings. Josh even developed the ability to do magic but lost it when he had to return to the human world. Using the pretense of a birthday treat for Josh, Maddy and her brother persuade their parents to go camping in Banff, and so they reenter the magical world and return to Castle Mountain.
This time, once more, the ring is in danger when a young crow, fascinated with the glitter, steals the ring only to have it stolen from him by Alleena, a treacherous water sprite. Both children cannot persuade her to return the ring to the Keeper, and so they accompany her on a series of adventures in water travel. These water adventures take them to China Beach in BC and to Banff's hot springs and also inside a mountain. Although continuously pursued by the evil Troll, Gronvald, the children eventually return to the Keeper, and Aleena returns the ring.
Throughout the book, there is an underlying message that humans destroy the magic in the world with pollution and lack of empathy for nature. Even though this is a serious theme, it is delivered quite naturally in conversations and in the responses of the loving otter parents, Greyfur and Eneirda who are worried about their offspring.
Crow Boy is an easy to read chapter book as well as a great introduction to the conventions of a fantasy adventure. The siblings' bond, as well as the faith the children have that they will survive the dangers of the adventure, provide the reader with a safe imaginary journey. It is a well written book with themes that will interest children who love nature and show an interest in the environment. As a fantasy, it will also appeal to children who can see magic in the world around them and are familiar with the trolls and giant from fairytales.
Janet Margaret Johnson is a librarian and an instructor of Children's and Young Adult Literature at Red River College in Winnipeg, MB.
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