CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 13. . . .November 30, 2012
And Nothing But the Truth.
Toronto, ON: Harper Collins, 2012.
267 pp., hardcover, $19.99.
Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.
Review by Betsy Fraser.
"Miss Netherwood gave me the order mark," she murmured. Then her voice grew stronger. "But all I did was draw a cube!"
"You must have done more than that, or she wouldn't have given you one," said Babs. She appraised Polly. "I was thrilled to learn you would be in Sussex, Polly. Your sister was the best house captain we ever had! We won the cup last year because of her inspiration. I'm going to try my best to follow her example, and I want you to follow her example, and I want you to, as well. From now on, every time you wonder how to behave, think of Maud and do what she would do."
Leaving Kingfisher Island and all its comforts for a boarding school in Victoria, BC, had not been 13-year-old Polly Brown's idea. It was true that her older sister had loved St. Winifred's, but Polly knows that she will not. There is no way that she can live up to her sister's academic excellence, and she has no interest in the religious studies at which her sister excelled. Nor does she wish to leave her friends, family, or beloved dog. The only way that the school's headmistress tempted her into attending during the week was by promising special art classes.
Polly's immersion into her class is very realistic. The upper form knows her family background from her sister or her teachers and whispers about her, now that her father has come forward about his transgressions, allowing readers who have not read the earlier volume, The Whole Truth (Vol. XVIII, No. 6, Oct. 7, 2011) to learn her family history along with her classmates. Polly's homesickness and difficulties with both her teachers and her roommates are easily understood. The comparison between her art teachers, in particular, highlights her own natural ability while allowing the author to show Polly's struggle to fit in at the school and with her peers. Any reader with a perceived 'talented' older sibling will understand Polly's desire to be recognized for her own skills. The extended Brown family is also tested as Polly is once again asked to keep another secret, and her family continues to grow.
The reader is immersed in a completely realized historical novel. Students at the school have a 'marcel wave' and point out that a movie theatre is playing Hopalong Cassidy. Polly meets Emily Carr and is moved by her paintings. Prejudices that would be accurate at the time are integrated into the plot. And Nothing But the Truth is a novel that will be welcome in school and public libraries.
Betsy Fraser is a Selector at Calgary Public Library.
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