________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 17 . . . . April 25, 2003


Izzie: The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t. (Our Canadian Girl).

Budge Wilson.
Toronto, ON: Penguin Canada, 2002.
87 pp., pbk., $7.99.
ISBN 0-14-100272-7.

Subject Heading:
World War, 1939-1945-Nova Scotia-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.

Review by Harriet Zaidman.

**½ /4


Soon, all the kids were gathered in the Morash kitchen, ready to work. But, then, everything seemed to go a little bit crazy.

It turned out that if you filled the huge lobster pot with water, it was too heavy to carry. So Izzie had to keep filling it on the stove with the Morashes' tiny little dipper, which the family used for quick drinks of water and for filling the small washbasin in the back porch. And Jasper had to keep going out to the well for more and more water. Those buckets were heavy, and he did a lot of groaning.

Then the water took forever to boil. Izzie fed the stove over and over from the woodbox beside the stove, and everyone hoped the Morashes wouldn't notice how much wood was gone from the giant woodpile at the backdoor.

Alice kept going too close to the stove, and Joey had to think up ways to keep her busy and out of everyone's way.

World War II was fought across the Atlantic, but it has an effect on the Publicover family in their small fishing village in Nova Scotia in 1941. Nightime blackouts, rationing and Halifax streets crowded with sailors are the norm for Izzie, a curly-haired redhead.

     Izzie, 11, her brother Joey and friend Jasper are put in charge of making a Christmas party for their families and out-of-town relatives. They excitedly make paper decorations; Izzie makes a huge mess dying bedsheets red (they turn out pink). But the weather conspires against their plans; a blizzard prevents their relatives from arriving. Their muted holiday celebration is enlivened by the appearance of three men who arrive at the wharf in a rowboat, frozen cold and soaked through from their ordeal. Two of them are survivors from a minesweeper that sunk in the blizzard, and the third is a German sailor whose submarine has also been lost. Initial discomfort is replaced by warmth and welcome of the small town and the holidays; Izzie's Christmas will be one she remembers all her life.

     This edition of the “Our Canadian Girl” series provides a glimpse of life in a fishing village in the 1940's. Outhouses, woodstoves and a one-room school are typical. Izzie's family runs the crowded town general store where people come for conversation and exchange their wartime ration coupons for goods that are stored in barrels. Young children help parents with fishing nets and babysit toddler siblings. Anxiety over the Nazi threat from the sea is constant.

     The plot in this historical novel is interesting, but the climax arrives right at the end of the story. The buildup to the party takes up a good portion of this 87 page novel, leaving no opportunity to inform the reader about the fate of the German sailor after the party. Until that point, it seems as if one event is happening after the other, the visit to Halifax, the day in school, the Christmas preparations, etc., with the obvious purpose of teaching the reader about a period in history.

     Izzie is a thinking, busy girl for most of the book, although the cover art picture by Ron Lightburn reflects her desperate feeling when she spots the stranded sailors.


Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in the Louis Riel School Division in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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ISSN 1201-9364
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