________________ CM . . . . Volume VII Number 11 . . . . February 2, 2001

cover The Watcher.

Margaret Buffie.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2000.
260 pp., pbk. & cloth, $6.95 (pbk.) $16.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55074-831-9 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55074-829-7 (cl.).

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.

Review by Kristin Butcher.

*** /4


Just below me, under the green moon, is a beach covered in pale purple sand that stretches to a wide expanse of undulating emerald water. But then, to the right, the sand ends as if someone has sliced a knife right down the middle and replaced half with a shelf of black land and a silhouetted bank of trees. The orange moon sits on the treetops like a giant's eye watching over the wood. It's like I'm seeing two different worlds at once.
The books Margaret Buffie writes follow a definite format. They are part mystery, part adventure, and part fantasy, laced with appropriate measures of angst and hormones, and presented in a style that has earned Buffie a loyal readership. The Watcher is no exception. However, whereas Buffie's other novels have tended to focus on relationships between the living and the dead, her latest offering explores relationships which transcend different worlds. This change of venue allows Buffie limitless opportunities to exercise her imagination in exciting, new ways.

      The story begins in familiar enough surroundings with realistic, albeit somewhat eccentric characters, but it isn't long before the reader is overwhelmed with strange settings and a colossal cast of equally strange characters.

      Adolescent Emma Sweeney, a.k.a. Winter, is the protagonist, and it is clear from the outset that she is a misfit, both at school and within her own family. The interesting thing is that she recognizes her "differentness" and voluntarily holds herself apart, even to the point of sleeping in the barn rather than the house. Not that Emma does much sleeping. As often as not, the night finds her restlessly prowling the farm, obeying an unexplainable compulsion to keep watch over her family, particularly her sickly younger sister, Summer.

      The Sweeney family has recently moved to a small, rural community and taken over a bee farm which had belonged to Emma's grandfather. Emma's mother tends the bees, while her artist father spends his time erecting a life-size plexiglass Stonehenge type of structure on one of the farm's fields. To ease money problems, Emma's mother accepts a summer job--on her daughter's behalf--one which calls for Emma to be a companion for an elderly neighbor, an action which sets Emma on an adventure destined to change all of their lives forever.

      In her workplace, Emma finds herself surrounded by people even more bizarre than her family. She learns to play a strange, addictive board game called Fidchell and begins having dreams about impossible places and creatures which are entirely too real. More and more, this dream world encroaches on Emma's real world until it becomes obvious that her dreams are not dreams at all, but part of a terrifying game she must play if she is to save her family.

      Though this reader found the sheer numbers of characters and their parallel identities somewhat confusing, more experienced fantasy buffs will probably have no such problem. Buffie fans can look forward to another enjoyable read.


Kristin Butcher lives in Victoria and writes for children.

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

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ISSN 1201-9364