The White Stone in the Castle Wall
Sheldon Oberman. Illustrated by Les Tate.
Montreal: Tundra Books, 1995. 24pp, cloth, $16.95.
ISBN 0-88776-333-2. CIP.
Casa Loma (Toronto, Ont.)-Juvenile fiction.
Pellatt, Henry Mill, Sir, 1859-1939-Juvenile fiction.
Kindergarten - grade 3 / Ages 5 - 8.
Review by Dave Jenkinson.
Starting with a known fact, Oberman creates both an appealing young
character and a believable story to explain how that fact might have come
to be. Among the quarter million dark fieldstones used to construct the
half-mile wall surrounding Toronto's Castle Loma, there is but one white
stone. Since the wall was built under the direct supervision of the
castle's owner, Sir Henry Pellatt, this odd rock could only have been
used with Sir Henry's knowledge. Oberman suggests one scenario that might
have led to Sir Henry's accepting such an unsuitable stone.
John Tommy Fiddich, a lad from Toronto's poorest area, vacillates
between characterizing himself as the "luckiest" and "unluckiest boy of
all." After hail destroys his flourishing vegetable garden, John is left
with only a "dirty, worthless stone," but his fortune appears to change
when he learns that Sir Henry is paying a silver dollar for every
dull-coloured stone delivered to the building site. Loading the
previously worthless rock aboard his cart, John makes the arduous trip to
the castle's hilltop location. Along the way, however, rain washes the
stone's surface exposing its bright white exterior. With his stone
rejected, a disheartened John shares his tale of misfortune with the
castle's gardener. John becomes "the luckiest boy of all" when the
"gardener" reveals his true identity and purchases the stone because
"your work has made it worth a lot to me."
Tate's realistic paintings, which principally portray John's trek,
faithfully capture Toronto as it would have appeared in 1914, while the
map on the book's endpapers allows readers to trace John's trip from
River St. to the Castle Loma gate at the corner of Davenport and Walmer.
The final page provides factual information about Sir Henry and the
building of Castle Loma.
Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in children's and young-adult literature
in the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba.
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