________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 15 . . . . March 28, 2003

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Criss Cross, Double Cross: Sophie alias Star Girl to the rescue.

Norma Charles.

Vancouver, BC: Sandcastle Books/Beach Holme, 2002.
122 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 0-88878-431-7.

Grades 3-5 / Ages 8 -10.

Review by Carole Marion.

*** /4

Sophie dreads the beginning of the school year. Having moved to Maillardville, British Columbia from Montreal in the spring of 1949, this is her second new school in less than a year. Her parents are delighted that a new Catholic French school will help Sophie preserve her language, religion and culture. But Sophie has already suffered some cruel barbs from the Anglophone classmates in her old public school and dreads what will inevitably come.

     Sophie’s home is small and cramped. She lives there with her four brothers, parents and her Grand’maman who shares a bedroom with her. The family’s French-Canadian culture is evident throughout the novel via numerous references to their Catholicism and culinary delights and occasional inclusion of French words and phrases. Although a glossary of French words is appended to the story, most readers will understand the words’ meanings as they are cleverly explained within the context of the story.

     Ten-year-old Sophie LaGrange draws on inner strength from her favourite comic-book hero, Star Girl. But Sophie is not Star Girl, much to her frustration and to the delight of the reader. Her humourous misadventures are frequently the result of her own doing. Whose idea was it to pause and swing leisurely from the rope spanning the creek on her return trip from the store thereby causing the ice cream to melt in the summer sun? Could she not wait until after school to search for her treasured Star Girl Super Bounce Ball, earning her a detention for being late after recess? Did she have to shove her brother away from the microphone during the talent contest, making it fall and break so that she had to screech out to project her voice? When it really matters though, Sophie is up to the challenge:

Suddenly a muffled scream and a loud splash broke the silence. She jumped off the path and lunged through the bushes toward the creek. Thorny vines clawed at her arms and legs, but she yanked them aside and hurried down. The first thing she noticed was the rope swing. It was dangling over the stream, still swaying slightly. She stared down at the creek. Winter rains had swollen it so that now it was fast and frothy and deep. Someone had fallen in, all right. Sophie grabbed a long stick and rushed to the slippery edge. Someone was thrashing in the foaming water. A girl with red ribbons in her hair was struggling on her knees against a big rock. Sophie gasped. Elizabeth! She was trying to grasp the rock and raise herself out of the water. But the creek was too deep and the current was too strong.

Without stopping to think, Sophie plunged into the creek. “Hold on, Elizabeth!” she cried. “I’ll get you! I’m coming! I’ll get you out!”

     The satisfying though predictable ending does turn Sophie into a hero in this sequel to the award-winning Sophie Sea to Sea. The colourful cover, illustrated by Ljuba Levtek, will attract browsers; the story, itself, should encourage readers to seek out further adventures of Sophie and her alter ego, Star Girl. The brevity of the story, the humour and action will appeal to reluctant readers. The cross-cultural theme and realistic depiction of everyday life in post-war British Columbia add charm to this story. The “Author’s Note” at the end explains that Criss Cross, Double Cross is based on an actual event that occurred in Maillardville. In the spring of 1951, the teachers of a new French school went on strike to protest exorbitant taxes, and the students had to transfer to nearby public schools for over a year until a settlement was reached.

Recommended.

Carole Marion, a Youth Librarian with Calgary Public Library, has been working with young readers and their caregivers for twenty years.

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

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.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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