________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 9. . . .October 28, 2011



Karen Hood-Caddy.
Toronto, ON: Dundurn, 2011.
244 pp., pbk., $9.99.
ISBN 978-1-926607-25-2.

Grades 5-7 / Ages 10-12.

Review by Kay Weisman.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Review Copy.



Then she heard it again. A half grunt, half growl, but big and breathy somehow like a sound that would come from a big-chested animal. A long-nailed paw of fear clawed through her. She squinted into the darkness.

She couldn't see it, but she could smell it now, the strong animal musk.

Then it stood up on its hind legs.

Robin's eyes followed it to its full height. Her breath caught in her throat.

The mother bear!

Maybe it was because Robin was used to Mukwa, who was still so small. Or, maybe it was because of the way the moon was casting shadows, but the mother looked absolutely colossal.

Robin gulped... The bear was watching her. Getting ready to pounce! In one, or maybe two quick strides the bear would be on her, ripping her skin with its claws and breaking her bones with its powerful teeth. Should she run? Should she lie down and play dead? She couldn't remember what she was supposed to do. Her brain was mushy. Her legs felt like they were going to collapse.


Twelve-year-old Robin, her older sister Ari, younger brother Squirm, and veterinarian father are grieving the recent loss of their mother and wife. In an attempt to gain some much-needed stability, Dad decides they will relocate to the Ontario cottage country to live with his mother. Ari and Squirm seem to make new friends easily, but Robin (who has trained herself to remain aloof from others since her mother's death) has trouble adjusting. Her fear of water, a female classmate who bullies her, and sibling issues with Ari all add to Robin's difficulties. Then her dog falls through ice (bringing on early labour and delivery of her pups), and Robin realizes her true callingórescuing and caring for animals. And although she never advertises her skills, Robin soon finds herself caring other animals, a situation which eventually brings the sheriff to her door, demanding that she close her unlicensed shelter.

     Hood-Caddy has created a believable scenario involving contemporary kids who do their best to deal with real-world problems. Ari falls for the good-looking-but-bad-news boy next door; Robin's friends, Zo-Zo and Brodie, both come from one-parent families; and Squirm deals with severe asthma. Yet none of these issues overwhelms the plot; these situations simply exist so the characters cope with them. Less successful is the depiction of Robin's dad, who appears deeply concerned about the animals he cares for, yet is also quick to punish his daughter's activities in support of the rule-conscious sheriff.

      By the end of the novel, Robin and her family have made credible progress in working through their grief and establishing productive lives for themselves in their new community. Robin succeeds due to her own perseverance and to the wisdom and support she receives from her grandmother, a woman whom Robin at first views as eccentric but later comes to depend upon. Give this satisfying and ultimately uplifting story to fans of Robin Stevenson's Liars and Fools (2010) or Kit Pearson's A Perfect Gentle Knight (2007).


Kay Weisman is a Master of Arts in Children's Literature candidate at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC.

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

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