________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 16 . . . . December 16, 2011


The Summer of Permanent Wants.

Jamieson Findlay.
Toronto, ON: Doubleday Canada, 2011.
241 pp., trade pbk., $14.95.
ISBN 978-0-385-66928-3 (trade pbk.), ISBN 978-0-385-66929-0 (eBook).

Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.

Review by Vasso Tassiopoulos.

**** /4

Reviewed from Uncorrected Proof.



Emmeline, looking around at the boats, felt sure that everyone on them was living a normal life. Some people were sunburned, some were pale; some wore straw hats with paisley bands, some baseball caps; some wore too-tight bathing suits, some drooping bathing suits. But all were talking and laughing easily. They probably didn’t even realize how normal they were. She used to have a normal life, too—blazingly normal. She could play Scrabble with Gran and write emails to her friends. She could go tobogganing on her Crazy Carpet with her cousins Shelby and Todd and scream her head off (sometimes even in French). She could watch movies—Get Smart, Toy Story, Back to the Future—and repeat all the funny lines to her mum and dad. She never had to visit doctors and speech therapists; she never took five minutes to print her own name; she never had to put up little labels—“wall,” “light switch,” “desk”—around her room so she could remember the names of things. Now, looking out at boats, she suddenly decided that this summer was going to be normal. She and Gran would do all the ordinary things that people did on their vacations. And if she didn’t speak...well, that wasn’t so abnormal, was it? Her dad didn’t say much and he was pretty normal, for a dad.

The Summer of Permanent Wants is a novel written in the form of a classic adventure story seamlessly set in the present day world found along the Rideau Canal waterway. The protagonist of the story is Emmeline, an 11-year-old girl, who embarks on a journey with her grandmother aboard Permanent Wants, their sailing bookshop. As they sail from Ottawa to Kingston, they meet an interesting assortment of characters while experiencing mystery and adventure in every town in which they come to dock Permanent Wants. With every extraordinary experience Emmeline encounters, she comes to reflect on how she lost her ability to speak. Throughout her summer trip, Emmeline also comes to piece together ways of communicating without speech while also struggling to gain the ability to speak again.

      The chapters of the novel are episodic and referred to as tales. Each tale explores a new small town setting with mysterious to eccentric characters full of new adventures to uncover. Emmeline and Gran uncover mysteries through an assortment of encounters on their trip which range from searching for a lost language with anthropologists, to helping an old pirate search for a lost passageway to the Sea of Corsairs, to bringing music back to a town where music is never heard, to finding an all consuming book containing the entire universe. Findlay uses real and also imaginary place names throughout the novel, mixing the imaginary and the real world effortlessly. Through the eyes of Emmeline, the reader is able to enter and experience the interesting and strange world she finds while sailing along the Rideau Canal.

      Emmeline’s real struggle with finding a way to speak again is explored through storytelling in this well-crafted novel. The omniscient narrator of the book, who is revealed in the novel’s epilogue, gives readers a sense that Emmeline’s imaginative stories are real because he explains that he visited the places and met the people from her stories in order to write the book. As an author, Findlay combines imagination and reality in a way that will transfix readers young and old. The novel is also a great choice for teachers to read aloud to their classrooms or to choose for a novel study. Anyone who enjoys the art of storytelling will enjoy The Summer of Permanent Wants.

Highly Recommended.

Vasso Tassiopoulos is a recent graduate of the Master of Arts program in Children’s Literature at the University of British Columbia.

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

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