Linda Brousseau. Translated by David Homel.
Grades 2 - 4 / Ages 7 - 9.
Grades 2 - 4 / Ages 7 - 9.
Marina is an orphan who is just going to live with the fifteenth foster family she has had since her birth. She desperately wants to have a real mother who will love her, but, since no one seems to want her, she deliberately behaves as badly as she can, all the while dreaming of a beautiful mother who will love her no matter what she does. When she sees her teacher on the first day of school in her latest foster home, she decides that this teacher is her mother because she looks exactly as Marina has always dreamed her mother would look.
"That day was my first day of school. It's always scary being the new girl in class.According to a news release, the book "is somewhat autobiographical, in that Brousseau, herself, was in an orphanage until the age of four, and then went the rounds of foster homes." The book also won the Salon du livre de Quebec prize for the best children's novel of the year. For those reasons, I hesitate to criticize this book; however, there seems to be an age discrepancy between Marina's behaviour and the language used to describe her feelings. If the story were written in the third person or as if an older child or adult were looking back on her younger self, this would not be a problem, but Marina is describing the events of last week. The language used to describe her feelings seems appropriate to a child who is perhaps 10 - 12, but her behaviour better suits that of a much younger child, one say 6 to 8 years old. While a 10 - 12 year-old motherless child very likely would dream about finding her real mother in the way that Marina did, surely she would not persist in her belief in the face of such overwhelming contrary evidence, and she would not dare to admit this belief to anyone else. Then, when Marina finally does come to accept that her teacher is not really her mother, she almost immediately sees a boat called Marina's Star and decides that its captain is her father.
I had butterflies in my stomach by the time I got there.
I stood near the door, with my keep-away look and my puffy eyes. I was on high alert. My legs were tense, and I was ready to run if I needed to.
With no teacher to stop them, the students had barrels of fun. They whispered and giggled together, and ran their eyes over my slumped shoulders and polka-dot dress.
I was like a foreigner who's just drifted in on a boat and who has no idea where she is. I felt lost. Abandoned at the outer edge of the world. With-out a passport, without anything to say who I am. All alone in a hostile land. I was hoping the floor would disappear beneath my feet when, suddenly , my mother, my honest-to-goodness mother, came walking down the hall just like in a dream." (pp. 9 - 10)
The fact that the students call the teacher by her first name (Karen) does not seem realistic. When Karen learns that Marina is an orphan who believes that she (Karen) is her mother, she is very understandably sympathetic; however, her sympathy seems to go beyond what would be reasonable for a teacher.
"Then she told me I had her permission to come and see her as often as I liked. She gave me her address and said that I was the only one of her students allowed to visit. (pp. 72-73)
Recommended with reservations
Irene Gordon is a teacher-librarian who retired at the end of June after spending the last 14 years working in a Winnipeg junior high school library. She is presently co-editor of the Manitoba School Library Association Journal.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR THIS ISSUE - JANUARY 2, 1998.
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