Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Pearson's Polly and Maud sequel evokes earlier era

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Kit Pearson is one of Canada's most popular young adult novelists. Her latest book, And Nothing but the Truth (HarperCollins, 266 pages, $20 hardcover) is a sequel to The Whole Truth, her novel about Polly and Maud, two young girls living with their grandmother on Vancouver Island in the 1930s and sharing the secret of their father, who was arrested for theft in Winnipeg and sent to jail.

And Nothing but the Truth opens with Polly reluctantly enrolling in St. Winifred's School, where a ridiculously strict school mistress makes her life miserable. Her only escape is her art class, where a talented teacher recognizes her potential and introduces her to Emily Carr.

At the end of term Polly must choose to either leave St. Winifred's, as she has sworn to do, or to remain and pursue her studies in art. Her decision is complicated when Maud reveals a life-changing secret that has immense consequences for the whole family.

Pearson evokes an earlier era, one in which girls had little knowledge of sexuality, where schools were stricter and pupils more compliant. Her characterization of Polly and Maud is realistic and sympathetic. For ages 11-16.

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Australian author Scot Gardner has chosen a most unlikely setting for his young-adult novel The Dead I Know (Razorbill/Penguin Canada, 208 pages, $15 paperback). But despite the fact that most of the novel takes place in a funeral parlour, this is a book that you won't want to put down.

Aaron Rowe is a misfit. He doesn't do well at school, he has recurrent nightmares and walks in his sleep. But his salvation comes from an unlikely source, the funeral director, who finally uncovers the secret of Aaron's nightmares and starts him on a road to recovery. For older teens.

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Who can resist Gordon Korman's enticing mix of madcap enterprises combined with humour? In Ungifted (Scholastic, 280 pages, $20 hardcover), he once again involves his readers in fun and games, as a student, Donovan, gets sent accidentally to a school for gifted children.

When the pupils are asked to produce a robot that can do specific tasks, it turns out Donovan is the only one who knows how to control it. By the time the authorities realize Donovan has been misplaced, the super-brainy students at the Academy for Scholastic Distinction discover he's exactly what they've needed all along.

Korman is a Montreal-born author now living in New York who published his first book, It Can't be Happening at Macdonald Hall, at the age of 12, when he wrote the text as a school assignment.

He has since written almost 70 young-adult novels, which appeal especially to boys, possibly since they may envy some of the more ingenious stunts his characters poll in these largely school-related adventures. Ungifted will appeal to ages 10 and up.

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Sharon Creech is another New Yorker with a long list of successful books to her credit, including the Newbery Medal winner Walk Two Moons.

Her latest juvenile fiction, The Great Unexpected (HarperCollins, 226 pages, $19 hardcover), is a gentle, humorous tale of rags to riches set mainly in a dirt-poor town in southern U.S., with occasional forays into a more prosperous area in Ireland.

The best thing about this novel is its characters, especially Lizzie, a girl who never uses one sentence when a dozen will do. The other inhabitants of this unlikely town all form a harmonious whole that is connected by at first invisible bonds of caring. For ages 9-13.

 

Winnipegger Helen Norrie is a former teacher-librarian. Her column appears on the third weekend of the month.

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 17, 2012 J9

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