________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 20 . . . . June 9, 2000

cover Smuggler's Moon.

Mary Razzell.
Toronto, ON: Douglas & McIntyre/Groundwood, 1999.
160 pp., pbk., $7.95.
ISBN 0-88899-379-X.

Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.
Review by Ruth McMahon.

***1/2 /4


I rowed back to the southern end of the island and the leper colony. As I approached, I saw that two of the lepers were loading the supplies from the wharf into a wheelbarrow. A man about fifty wore a wing-collared coat shiny with age. He turned, suddenly, to face me. His face looked as if it had been punched out. Where there should have been a nose there were two holes. One eye had a film growing over it, like a white patch. The younger man was having trouble handling the boxes. I saw that his left hand was gnarled, almost a stump. The fingers past the first knuckle seemed to be missing. A dirty bandage was coming undone on one foot. But, by working together, they were able to wrestle the cases of canned food and sacks of vegetables onto the wheelbarrow.

The breeze suddenly shifted my way, and a whiff of decaying flesh almost knocked me off my seat. Pushing the dingy away from the float, I rowed until I could breathe again without gagging. Meanwhile, the two men had filled the wheelbarrow and were trundling it up the wharf.

I stayed on the water until the feeling of revulsion had passed. I couldn't imagine making another three trips to the leper colony for Gus. Not for anything. I wanted to get away from the island, wanted a good wash with hot water and soap. And I wanted to cry my eyes out.

Leprosy, tuberculosis, rum running, romance, dead and dying parents, absent parents, religious fundamentalism, and the "Dirty Thirties." It would appear there is almost too much going on in this novel, but Mary Razzell has done an outstanding job of weaving all these elements together.

Kathleen Quinn has spent her life living in remote logging camps with her family. As the story begins, her mother has drowned, her father's lumber camp is closing, and she must move south to live with her grandmother off the coast of Vancouver Island. She and a neighbour take turns piloting a motorboat to school each day. The neighbour, Steve Spence, provides the romantic interest and is the catalyst for Kathleen's involvement with the delivery of supplies to the Crescent Island leper colony.

The characters are strong and believable. Kathleen is naive, yet secure in herself and her morals. Steve Spence is ambitious and misses the direction of his father. Rose Owen, Kathleen's schoolmate is worldly, savvy and lacks a supportive family.

The plot is exciting and plausible. Crescent Island, the home of the lepers, is probably based on D'Arcy Island, where lepers were quarantined from 1891 or 1907 (depending on the information source) to 1924. Razzell's knowledge of medicine provides details that add realism and historical significance to all aspects of this novel.

The author captures the sounds, sights, smells of the Pacific coast, from the stench of pulp mills, to the beauty of the night sky and the sound of a one lunger marine motor.

Smuggler's Moon is an engaging read and an interesting look at a little known part of Canadian history.

Highly Recommended.

Ruth McMahon, a library consultant and storyteller, is currently the co-chair of the Alberta Young Reader's Choice Award and the co-chair of the Lethbridge Children's Literature Roundtable.

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

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364