CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 12. . . . February 14, 2003
"You brought enough stuff to last a month!" Rina said as she bounced down onto the bed beside Shannon's open suitcase. Her short dark hair swished against the sides of her face.
"Just what I need for a week," Shannon said, laughing. "I hope your little sister doesn't mind lending me her bed."
"Who cares if she does?" Rina said. "I cleared out a drawer for you," she added, pointing to the squat white dresser between the two beds.
"Thanks," Shannon answered. She took a yellow happy-face alarm clock off the top of her clothes and set it on a corner of the dresser, facing her bed. Then, she pulled out a photograph and placed it beside the clock, tucking an edge under the clock's metal base to secure it.
In the picture, the two girls stood with their arms around each other, grinning at the camera. One had short brown hair and a bright smile that shone across her whole face. The other had long blond hair and a shy tilt to her head. Rina had given Shannon the photo at the end of the school year. On the back, Rina had scrawled friends forever.
This story of friendship takes place during two different eras; one is contemporary between Shannon and Rina and the other is of Rina's grandmother's generation during World War II. At the beginning of the visit, the two girls are thrilled by each other's company and want to share everything, but, as the visit progresses, animosity develops. Shannon owns a beautiful pair of roller blades which she permits Rina to use. Rina is much more athletic than Shannon and begins to feel that she should have the blades. Rina's little sister notices the changes in the girl's friendship and is quick to report the trouble, much to Rina's annoyance. Just when the girls are no longer speaking to each other, Rina's grandmother, originally from India, arrives and recounts her experience of friendship turned bitter. This time, her best friend is from Japan, and before the quarrel can be resolved, her friend is transported to the interior of British Columbia, along with all the other Japanese people in the community. Ever since their harsh parting, the grandmother has felt haunted by her wish for reconciliation with her long lost friend. Finally the opportunity occurs when the community of Paldi, where the two grew up, has a reunion. Eventually, the two seniors do meet again, and, from the perspective of Rina and Shannon who have become friends again after listening to the grandmother and who are watching from a distance, this is a happy reunion.
This story is based on part of the history of Paldi, a saw mill town in British Columbia. The book is a satisfying read, particularly for girls looking for short chapter books. Incidentally, through descriptions of meals and families, readers are introduced to different multicultural traditions and a bit of vocabulary. The girls in both generations are well developed and very believable in the expressions of anger and hurt. The book would fit into several scenes of Canadian social studies, including immigrants, World War II and relationships among friends. The Reunion, which could be read by good readers in grades 3 and less ambitious ones in grade 6, is a welcome addition to any library seeking Canadian settings for younger readers.
Meredith MacKeen is the teacher-librarian at Glen Stewart School in Stratford, P.E.I.
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