All three of these short novels the main characters of which are between 10 and 18, are well worth reading by anyone of any age.
One can derive lessons from them, without any of the stories being specially didactic. The plots are as novel as plots can be (remember, there are only supposed to be 30-odd of them in the world). The characters are also well-drawn.
The names of these books are: The Manager by Caroline Stellings (Cape Breton University, $11.95), Sinking Deeper by Steve Vernon (Nimbus, $12.95), and Me & Mr. Bell by Philip Roy (Cape Breton University, $11.95).
All three are, in a sense, impossible stories and, ultimately, all the truer for that.
Stellings is best-known for her little books about the adventures of some Gaelic-speaking mice for Cape Breton. It’s quite a shock, therefore, to find her writing about a dwarf girl of 18 called Tina, her father whose boxing gym is about to fold and a young native light-heavyweight whom Tina (the manager) believes will be a champion.
There is also Tina’s sister, Ellie, the narrator.
Suddenly all three young people get a chance to go to Boston, where Tina may undergo an operation to make her taller and Jesse, will be able to participate in the fight for the North American title. What happens on the road and in Boston comprises the rest of the story.
You do not have to know or even like boxing to enjoy this story. The interest lies in the characters and thus in the speculation. It’s almost recommended.
Sinking Deeper is subtitled My Heroic Decision to Invent a Sea Monster. The little town of Deeper Harbour is dying and badly needs some gimmick to attract tourists, and maybe even new residents.
So 14-year-old Roland MacTavish and his grandfather Angus devise a fake sea monster out of an old dory with pedals to propel it and an old moose-hide for its top storey. They try it out, and It works (in the fog anyway).
The story takes on a deeper note when Grandfather Angus is unavoidably left to work the monster himself, as well as blowing a moose call. He has a heart attack and dies. But Vernon (and his characters) handle this extremely well.
Apart from the overdose of laughs, especially in the earlier part of the book, there is nothing to object to and almost everything to admire in Sinking Deeper, even the imaginary Prime Minister of Canada.
Me & Mr. Bell may be the best of this trio of books. Alexander Graham Bell and Eddie MacDonald who’s 10, become good friends. In the process, Eddie learns much of his trouble is caused by the fact that he’s left-handed and teachers are making him write with his right.
Mr. Bell shows him how to celebrate his successes and never give up or slow down. It’s highly recommended.
Elizabeth Cran is a freelance writer who writes a book review column for The Guardian. To comment or to send her books to review, write her at 111 Sydney St., Apt. 17, Saint John, N.B., E2L 2L8, or call her at 506-693-5498.