The Secret of Sentinel Rock.
Grades 3 - 7 / Ages 8 - 12.
Streaks of dawn brightened the sky as she wiggled under the barbed-wire fence and sprinted across the pasture towards the rocky outcrop. Dandelions were beginning to show their yellow heads, and as Emily passed the willow bluff, crows cawed their greeting to the day. She quickened her pace as she neared the rock.Twelve-year-old Emily is facing not only the loss of her grandmother but her grandmother's farm, as well. She retreats to her favourite spot, a rock ledge overlooking the prairie, where, to her surprise, she finds a girl from the past. Through the magic of kindred spirits, Emily is transported back to the days when pioneers homesteaded in the same spot where her grandmother's farm stands today.
Emma just had to be there! She wanted to know more about her new friend. After leaving Emma last night she'd decided it was a chance of a lifetime to see an actual pioneer family in action. And especially now that the farm might be sold, there wasn't much likelihood of another opportunity.
Emily clambered up the steep incline, and scaled the rock. No Emma. Emily groaned. Not only was Emma not there, she was still looking at ploughed fields. How could she get through to Emma? Could she call to her somehow? Oh well, maybe Emma would soon appear. She could wait awhile, the sun wasn't even fully up yet.
A meadowlark sang nearby. Emily smiled at the refreshing sound. Maybe she'd climb back down and explore while she waited for Emma. Reaching the edge, she flipped on her stomach and swung her legs over. All at once she felt something grabbing at her right ankle.
Author Judith Silverthorne does a good job with this story. I particularly like the fact that Emily travels back and forth between her own time and Emma's, and also that the time periods do not run parallel. This adds an interesting twist in that the reader is uncertain what Emily will find on her return to the past. Silverthorne also describes important aspects of pioneer life in this book, such as clearing land, using herbal medicine, and illness - a flu epidemic and a bout of pneumonia.
The Secret of Sentinel Rock is Silverthorne's first work of fiction for children. In it, she combines a thorough knowledge of prairie landscape and pioneer life with an understanding of young people. Characters are realistic in situations that are believable. Setting is appropriate to the novel and shows a keen knowledge of the area. More novels from this Regina author would be a welcome addition to Canadian children's literature.
Deborah Mervold is a teacher librarian in a grade 6 to 12 school, and a Grade 12 English teacher at Shellbrook Composite High School.
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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.
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