CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 16 . . . . December 16, 2011
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.
Vasso Tassiopoulos is a recent graduate of the Master of Arts program in Children’s Literature at the University of British Columbia.
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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.