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. Volume VIII Number 5 . . . . November 2, 2001
These opening paragraphs set the tone for the novel where the new kid on the block has to find a place for herself in a new school in a new city. The story goes on to explore the issue of bullying both by means of physical intimidation and by situations of deliberate emotional abuse.
Gracie's family has relocated to Calgary from the small town of Cochrane where she had spent her entire life to date surrounded by the familiar and the predictable. She suffers a real sense of loss even as she tries to make new friends and join in new activities. Gracie's sport is synchronized swimming, and a new group starting up in a nearby recreation center seems promising at first. It is there that Gracie meets Rosalyn, the best swimmer on the team, but also the most ruthless in criticizing fellow teammates for their perceived short-comings. At the same time, distance and absence seem to be taking their toll on her relationship with her best friend back in Cochrane. Gracie watches in frustration and fear as her new friend, Zach, is repeatedly the target of the renowned grade eight bully and his friends. Then one day, her observant mother, who happens to be a librarian, brings home a book titled, "Schoolyard Bullies: How to help your kids cope."
Told in the first person, Pool Princess is natural in voice and flows well. The novel provides strategies for dealing with bullies in the form of straightforward advice from Gracie's family and her friends - some of it better than others. At the same time, it deals honestly with the fright of being involved in these situations. When the victims finally do stand up to their bullies, it is with shaking voices and knocking knees.
Pool Princess is another title in the "Sports Stories" series where characters often face the same issues that young readers experience in their lives and on their teams. The stories help to articulate the problems and show possibly how to overcome them.
There are no pat answers to a difficult issue at the end of this book. Gracie knows that she can never be friends with Rosalyn even after the bullying is put to an end because she could never respect or trust someone who would deliberately set out to hurt other people.
Helen Arkos is the teacher-librarian at John Henderson Junior High School in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.