________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 7. . . .October 19, 2012


Road Block. (Orca Young Readers).

Yolanda Ridge.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2012.
162 pp., pbk., $7.95.
ISBN 978-1-4598-0045-8.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Elizabeth Walker.

*** /4



I walked around the room, looking at the mixed group of people who'd come to the meeting. Some of the older adults were still sitting in their seats talking quietly. Probably discussing politics, banana bread recipes, the wonderfulness of their grandkids. You know the stuff grandparents always talk about. Other people closer to Mom and Dad's age were browsing the wall of displays. There were no other kids there. Just me.

I stopped to look at a map labeled Land Acquisition that was posted on the wall. The map was marked up with big red lines, making it look like a teacher had given the student who drew it a really bad grade. I was trying to guess which of the boxes that covered the map like a checkerboard was meant to be our farm when one of the older ladies came up and stood beside me. She chewed her lip as she studied the map, adjusting her reading glasses over and over again. She looked as confused as I felt.

"It doesn't make sense to me," I finally said. "Does it make sense to you?"

"Clear as mud," she replied with a frown.

We laughed.


In Yolanda Ridge's Road Block, young Bree is sent from Vancouver to rural Ontario to stay with her grandmother and cousins over the summer. Her visions of a bucolic (if technology-deprived) holiday are ruined when she discovers that the farm is being sold to make room for a new highway and that her grandmother will be moving.

      Bree, who has previously fought a tree-climbing ban in her neighbourhood, is not one to endure injustices. She quickly springs into action, attending local town halls, speaking to journalists, creating petitions and trying to get her other family members on board. Her single-mindedness pays off when she discovers that her grandmother's farm sits on an old convict cemetery. Of course, she discovers that neither local politics, nor family politics, are as straightforward as she assumed. Her determination is foiled at every turn by her family's resignation and apathy, but she perseveres and manages to save what is important to her.

      While hardly a gripping page-turner, Ridge's plot moves quickly and is a satisfying, if unexciting, read. Bree is a likeable character, and while she comes across as perhaps a bit too precocious, her decisions and actions largely ring true for a child her age. The grandmother is also a realistic portrait of an elderly lady who is caught between family expectations and her own wishes. The main problem with the story is the clunky way Ridge throws in details to show the reader that this book is set in Canada. For example, there surely are more authentic ways of informing your audience that the heroine lives in Vancouver than just throwing around local vocabulary and mentioning the NHL's Canucks. Books like Word Nerd and Odd Man Out set the scene in British Columbia more naturally, without the setting drawing attention to itself so obtrusively.

      Road Block will not be a book that children will unabashedly love, but its strong plot and believable characters make it a very likeable novel indeed.


Elizabeth Walker is a teacher-librarian in Vancouver, BC.

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

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