CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 14. . . . March 14, 2003
Someone was calling her name. It felt as if she was being dragged out of a deep sleep. Jess made herself refocus. She was looking out the attic window at Point Ellice House. It was her first day of volunteering, and someone - Libby or Louisa - was downstairs looking for her.
But Jess didn't want to be found up here. She scurried back across the attic floor. There was Rose's bedroom off to the side. She saw it now - just a glimpse of a whitewashed wall through the partly opened door. But there was no time to stop. Quickly she ran down the stairs, closed the door and locked it behind her. She could hear the voice still calling her name from the far end of the house. Jess pushed a stray strand of hair back behind her ears, grabbing a hasty moment to catch her breath.
How long had she been up in the attic? It felt like hours had passed. And during that time she'd seen at least a week of Rose's life. But why was Rose contacting her - making her see into the past? What could Rose want with her?
Twelve-year-old Jess, thankful to see the end of a school year in which she has been ostracized and bullied, volunteers at Point Ellice House, a restored mansion in Victoria. Drawn into the past by the ghost of Rose Laurie, Jess experiences the May 26, 1986, streetcar disaster at the Point Ellice bridge that killed Rose's father and their housekeeper. She searches for Rose's lost locket in the past but finds it hidden in a jewelry box in the present. Its inscription, the word, "courage," and Jess' summertime adventures help her to face the new school year.
The historical part of this fantasy paints a clear picture of the life of a poor parlor maid in the late 19th century and the dire straits in which women and children without the support and protection of a man could find themselves. It is painfully obvious that the indolence of the rich, no matter how compassionate, was only possible because of the backbreaking work of their servants. Point Ellice House is a real Victoria house in which the O'Reilly family lived for over 100 years.
Jess is a plucky girl who faces the ghost at the bridge with courage and determination. Through the summer, she develops the inner strength to make a new friend. Rose moves from the shock of her father's death, resignation at her position in life and longing to play the piano, to helping another lonely soul. Fortunately for her, this last person is Mrs. Cameron, a wealthy widow whose protection helps Rose to blossom and succeed in life. Rose's Aunt Ellen, who takes her in, is a down-to-earth, pragmatic soul who loves Rose deeply. Cynthia, the spoiled little rich girl, whose sulky photograph graces the book's cover, reveals her self-centred nature in her diary which is found in a wall by Jess as her father renovates her room.
There are no ends left untied, and a few coincidences strain an adult's credulity. However, younger middle school students, especially girls, will sigh in sympathy both with Jess' and Rose's sad situations and will be intrigued by the mystery of the locket's loss. And the escape of the pig will provoke howls of laughter.
Joan Marshall is the teacher-librarian at Fort Richmond Collegiate, 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.