________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 21 . . . . June 21, 2002

cover Jeannie and the Gentle Giants.

Luanne Armstrong.
Vancouver, BC: Ronsdale Press, 2002.
150 pp., pbk., $8.95.
ISBN 0-921870-91-4.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Christina Neigel.

*** /4

Jeannie McBean was not like most other girls her age. She didn't socialize with other kids. Rather, she lived in a cramped apartment, didn't always eat, and took care of her mom when she wasn't feeling well, which was quite regularly. However, Jeannie's life was turned upside down when her mother had a major collapse and was hospitalized. With no relatives to lean on, Jeannie was placed with first-time foster parents, Susan and Tom, northeast of Kelowna. Not only was Jeannie feeling angry, confused, and alone, but she was also totally out of her element, having to depend on others. At first, living in a rural community frustrated Jeannie. She was not used to the apparent isolation and focus on the outdoors.

     Through the compassion and care of her foster parents and her new neighbours, Katie and Arnold, Jeannie discovered horses, the outdoors, and friendship. The massive draft horse team that Katie and Arnold used for selective logging, became Jeannie's conduit for healing and self discovery. Reluctant at first, Jeannie learned to care for and, later, adore these horses. This new life also provided her with a rare opportunity to make friends with children her own age. This transition, however, was not easy for Jeannie. Initially:

She didn't want to be a foster child and she had already decided she
didn't have to bother being nice to people she didn't even want to know.
She just wanted her mom back and for everything to go back to the way it
had been.

     As time passed, Jeannie broke down her protective wall and gained a new sense of self worth and happiness.

     Jeannie and the Gentle Giants is a story about people. The reader is thrown into Jeannie's most immediate thoughts and feelings while listening in to her conversations with those around her. The dialogue between characters is natural and smooth, enhancing the work's realism. The uncomplicated storyline is offset by the wonderful shape and depth of Luanne Armstrong's characters. The steady, even pace of the work, combined with the excellent character development, makes this an excellent read.

Highly Recommended.

Christina Neigel is the Instruction Librarian at the University College of the Cariboo in Kamloops, BC.

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

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364