Christmas is the season of hope.
And hope is the common, though unstated, theme of the three young adult stories reviewed this week.
They are: “The Sewing Basket” by Susan White (Acorn Press, $12.95); “A Long Way from Home” by Alice Walsh (Second Story Press, Toronto, $11.95) and “The Spiral Library” by Evren Sener (www.spiralibrary.com). This latter book arrived from the Netherlands, and, while strictly speaking, it does not qualify for being reviewed here, the faith and hope of its author, and its unusual plot seem to justify its inclusion in this column.
It’s the story of a mysterious library “a grandiose and imposing building” on the top of a hill overlooking a city.
A 12-year-old girl, Soe, is chosen as a candidate to become successor to the chief librarian, and the rest of the story tells of the 12 trials she is put through to find out if she is worthy of the position.
According to the author, the Spiral Library “tells the spiritual journey of a young girl.” So fantastic is the tale, it should arouse interest among people of any age — if it is available here; if not, it can probably be ordered through the website.
Both “A Long Way from Home” and “The Sewing Basket” are firmly anchored in 21st-century life.
In the latter, the mother of the family is in the early stages of Huntington’s disease. Ruth, aged not-quite-12 hates all the changes involved, and wonders if she’ll get the disease too when she’s older.
The story is complicated further, when Dad feels he can’t stand the situation any longer and leaves. Then follow a long period of silence and, on Ruth’s part, resentment.
But things improve. Though there’s no really happy ending, new things develop, and some bad ones improve. And, on that note, the book ends. Susan White has a real gift for this kind of tale - and for the hope it brings.
“A Long Way from Home” is a story of the disaster of 9/11. Two young people are on a plane from England rerouted to Newfoundland.
Rubia, an Afghani girl, is seeking a better life in California, together with her mother and little brother. Colin is returning from a holiday in England, and fears his parents may be divorcing.
Taken in by a family in Gander, they meet Leah, a girl of their own age. And with the kindness and hospitality of the Newfoundlanders, several important changes in their lives happen before they can reach their destinations. Hope is fulfilled and more.
Alice Walsh is a Newfoundlander living in Nova Scotia who writes prolifically for young people and adults.
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.