________________ CM . . . . Volume III Number 4 . . . . October 18, 1996

cover Big Burn.

Lesley Choyce.
Saskatoon, SK.: Thistledown Press, 1995. 215 pp., paper, $8.00
ISBN 1-89544-943-X CIP

Grades 7 - 10 / Ages 12 - 15.
Review by Jennifer Sullivan.



"Did I have a plan? Yeah, I had a plan. I would put myself between the barge and its destination. I would make my point loud and clear to whomever was running that ship that it was not wanted. The words were on my wing. I believed in the unbelievable, as I skidded across the surface of the water lighter than a bird, more invulnerable than a rhinoceros. I believed that I could somehow get out there, show them that they were wrong. And that they'd turn around and take their deadly payload back to where it came from."
When Rocky Harbour, a small seaside east coast town, is targeted as the site for a second waste burning incinerator, sixteen-year-old Chris Knox refuses to be a passive witness to the destruction of the wildlife and the landscape. Along with Marina, an attractive newcomer to the town who has her own reasons for joining the fight, Chris struggles to prevent the installation of the incinerator. Caught up in a wave of youthful idealism, Chris and Marina soon find themselves involved in a conflict that threatens to tear apart not only their community, which relies heavily on the chemical company for employment, but also their relationship.

space Energized by his enthusiasm for the cause and his feelings for Marina, Chris can't understand his father. Mr. Knox has grown tired and cynical after a long and unsuccessul attempt to prevent the installation of the original incinerator in Rocky Harbour and losing his job with the Department of the Environment in the process. But when it seems like Marina is more interested in pursuing the Regional Authorities than him, Chris is forced to examine his own motivations. All I wanted was a chance to fall in love with this girl and for her to fall in love with me. Along with this introspection comes maturity, and a greater understanding of the passivity that haunts his father.

space A concern for the environment is a recurrent theme in award-winning author Lesley Choyces' fiction. He balances descriptions of the ravaged landscape with the windsurfing scenes, which convey a powerful oneness with nature, to suggest what will be lost if action yields to complacency. The dialogue reinforces this appreciation of the landscape; it is realistic yet full of wonderful imagery as Chris describes his strong connection to Rocky Harbour. This concern for the natural world is most poignantly voiced in the relationship between Marina s dying father and Jack, a seagull who breaks his wing when he is shot down outside the incinerator. As the maimed Jack embarks on his shaky flight, supported by a homemade wing lovingly constructed by Marina's father, it signals a triumph of the spirit over technology and financial profit.

space This is a thoughtful novel that will no doubt encourage discussion about a timely and important theme. It would be especially relevant for units on environmental studies or pollution. Most important, it encourages kids to stand up for their own values and principles.


Jennifer Sullivan.

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Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364