Hero of Lesser Causes

Julie Johnston, Author Joy Street Books $15.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-316-46988-3
Johnston makes a rousing debut with this moving book, set in 1946, winner of the Governor General's Award for Children's Literature in Canada. Keely, age 12, and her spirited, slightly older brother Patrick are ``Siamese twins joined at the mind.'' But a carefree summer in their Canadian town ends abruptly when Patrick contracts polio (presumably from swimming, despite warnings, in a particular pool). Frustrated by his near-total paralysis, the boy lashes out at family and friends, and castigates himself. Eager to bolster Patrick's morale, his sister enlists the help of best friend Ginny and Alex, a good-natured new neighbor. Although the story takes off slowly (a paragraph is spent on toasting bread), it accelerates into a spectacular novel, balancing coming-of-age angst with the grief from a sudden, devastating affliction. Keely, a captivating narrator, has moments of jocularity; after a showdown with an angry skunk, for example, she confides, ``I knew I had reached the depths, the absolute Grand Canyon of embarrassment.'' Although the characters live in a more innocent time, they are easy to identify with, as is this story's espousal of hope and determination over self-pity and despair. Ages 10-14. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/03/1993
Release date: 05/01/1993
Prebound-Sewn - 194 pages - 978-0-606-07005-8
Paperback - 194 pages - 978-0-14-036998-4
Hardcover - 178 pages - 978-1-895555-22-6
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